About me

I’m fascinated by the beauty of the natural world – from ants marching on the pavement to stars twinkling in the night sky. 

I did a physics degree and then 20 years of research in astrophysics, measuring the amount and distribution of the mysterious dark matter that makes up most of the mass in our universe. Back in 2015 my team measured the shapes of millions of galaxies to make the largest ever maps of the dark matter, and made the first measurements of the amount and clumpiness of the dark matter, from the largest optical imaging telescope of the last decade. 

Then my kids started school and I started to wonder what the world would be like for them. What would I say to them when they asked what I’d done about climate change? I was surprised to learn that food causes about one third of all greenhouse gas emissions. I took my experience analysing pictures of the night sky and refocused on the earth, analysing satellite images of fields of wheat, looking for ways to reduce its climate impact. But I soon realised that changing the way we produce food can only take us so far – the choices about which foods we eat are even more important.

I used my academic research experience to understand how different foods contribute to climate change, reading hundreds of research papers and doing new research on environmental impacts of diets and cooking impacts. I came to understand that people are key to food system transformation – both through their own food choices and the influence they can exert as citizens. But people currently lack detailed information, which is why I’m delighted to sit on a panel that advises the UK government on how environmental food labelling should work in the future.

I’m applying my experience of developing open-source computer code in astrophysics to food, to help policy-makers make better-informed decisions. We’re creating a digital twin of the food system which shows how health and environmental impacts are affected by changes in diet, production methods and land use. 

My recent work focuses on analysing the vulnerability of our food system here in the UK. We know that the food we eat affects climate change, but the impact of climate change eg. extreme weather and ecological degradation is also starting to affect our food. 

I’m passionate about sharing the fascinating things I’ve learned with other people, from astronomy societies to TV, radio and live performances. Most notably The Sky at Night, The Infinite Monkey Cage, Woman’s Hour, The Life Scientific and Nine Lessons and Carols for Curious People. I wrote a book, Food and Climate Change Without the Hot Air, to share what I’ve learnt about how different foods contribute to climate change and help people make informed decisions about the food that they’re eating. I chair panels on the future of food, talk at science festivals and I founded a project to develop resources for children to get them thinking about what kind of foods are healthy for them and the planet.

I particularly enjoy creating spaces where people can be at their best and make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. I co-lead a network of over 1,500 people across the UK involved in food research, industry and policy, and we are identifying what research needs to be done to help stop the UK from contributing to climate change.

I love playing music in small groups and am currently learning jazz double bass.

These slides offer an introduction to my research and the projects I work on:

City_Food_thinkers_webinar_20231115