Dr Martin McAinsh

Director of Undergraduate Biology

Research Interests

Martin is a plant cell biologist with an interest in the fundamental mechanisms by which plants respond to changes in the environment including drought, elevated carbon dioxide, high rhizospheric calcium and ozone stress. In particular, he is interested in understanding the cellular/molecular basis of how plants tolerate these environmental stresses and how this relates to agricultural sustainability and food security, and the maintenance of biodiversity in vulnerable plant communities.

Published research

Martin’s work includes over 65 published papers (see link above) many addressing the signalling pathways by which plant cells perceive and respond to environmental and developmental stimuli. These include highly cited papers in both Nature and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA focusing on the role of calcium ions in the response of plants to global change and the resultant stresses to which crops and natural plant communities are exposed.

Martin has received funding for his research from a range of organizations including:

  • National Environmental Research Council (NERC),
  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
  • The Royal Society, UK
  • Horticultural Development Council (HDC)
  • European Union (EU)

Current research

Martin is currently working on a range of fundamental and applied research strands including:

  • Exploiting vertical growing strategies for sustainable crop production (funded by the BBSRC)
  • Enhancing crop quality and diminishing water use in bedding plants (in partnership with Arden Lea)
  • Optimising nutrient use efficiency in crop production using biospectroscopy as a novel plant monitoring system(in partnership with Plant Impact)
  • Sensor-based pre-symptomatic detection of pests and pathogens for precision scheduling of crop protection products (in partnership with Barfoots Ltd)
  • Annexin1-mediated calcium signalling controls plant responses to ozone (funded by the BBSRC)
  • The influence of heavy metals on stomatal development in plants(funded by the China Scholarship Council)


Martin is senior admissions tutor for Biology-related undergraduate programmes.

Martin is currently:


Martin contributes modules to BSc and MSci level undergraduate programmes in both the Lancaster Environment Centre and Biomedical and Life Sciences Divisionat Lancaster University. These include:

  • First, second and third year modules on plant responses to environmental change
  • First and second year Biochemistry modules
  • Second and third year Cell Biology modules

He also supervises undergraduate and masters dissertation topics focusing on plant responses to environmental change at the whole-plant, cellular and molecular levels.