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Staff - Biology & Conservation Ecology

Dr Robin Sen

Reader in Soil Microbial Ecology and Biotechnology

My scientific career began at Rothamsted Experimental Station (now Rothamsted Research) in 1978 working with pioneers in soil microbial ecology and plant growth promoting root symbiotic mycorrhizal ecophysiology of crops. From 1987 to 2003, I worked at the University of Helsinki, Finland gaining a Ph.D and Docentship in forest soil microbiology. I went on to establish a forest microbiology research group at the Viikki Biocentre and was later awarded a 5-year Senior Research Fellowship (Academy of Finland). Between 2004-2005, I worked at the Macaulay Institute, Aberdeen as a Senior Scientist on forest soil food-web microbiology before taking up a Senior lectureship at MMU. I contributed to the successful RAE2008 submission, became a Reader in 2012 and was submitted to REF2014. Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology in 2016.

Professional Highlights

  • Education
      1982 BSc (Hons) Applied Biology. North East London Polytechnic, Stratford.
      1992 Ph.D. General Microbiology. University of Helsinki, Finlandl.
      2009 Post-Graduate Certificate in Academic Practice, (PG Cert AP) Manchester Metropolitan University.
  • Career
    • 1978-1986: Scientific Officer, Department of Soil Microbiology, Rothamsted Experimental Station, Harpenden.
      1987-1990: Researcher, Department of Botany, University of Helsinki, Finland.
      1990-1993: Researcher, Finnish Forest Research Institute, Vantaa, Finland.
      1993-2003: Post Doctoral Researcher/Senior Fellow of the Academy of Finland, Division of General Microbiology, University of Helsinki, Finland.
      2004-2005: Senior Scientist, Macaulay Institute, Aberdeen.
    • Editor- Journal of Plant Interactions (2005-)
      Editor- ISRN Soil Science (2011-2014)
      Editorial Advisor - New Phytologist (1995-2008)
      Referee - Over 15 journals in the field
  • Fellowships & Memberships
      Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (2010-)
      Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology (2016-)
      Member of the Society of General Microbiology
      Member of the International Mycorrhiza Society
      Member of the British Ecological Society

Management Responsibilities

    • School Plant & Soil Health Licence (DEFRA/APHA) Officer (2008-)
    • Divisional Health & Safety Officer (2015-)
    • School ECR Mentor (2013-)
    • School of Science and Environment RKE strategy board member (2015-)
    • Programme Leader Foundation and Combined Honours Geography (2008-2014)

Web sites

Robin Sen



+44 (0)161 2476208


I am qualified with a postgraduate teaching certificate (Academic Practice with merit) and teach soil and plant microbial ecology at all levels. Three undergraduate project students I have supervised have won the 'Environmental crop management' prize in the last four years and have gone on to Ph.D studentships and agricultural biotech companies. I have been successfully supervising Masters and Ph.D students since 1990 that have generated over 37 peer-reviewed papers in high impact journals.

Involved in soil ecology outreach as a Society of General Microbiology representative on the Sense about Science Plant Science Panel:  

Academic Interests

  • Mycorrhizal community ecology and spatial dynamics
  • Bacterial and Archaeal interactions and functioning in mycorrhizospheres
  • Biological control of root pathogens
  • Phytoremediation: role and application of mycorrhizal fungi

Teaching Specialisms

  • Soil microbial ecology
  • Mycology
  • Mycorrhizal ecophysiology
Robin Sen



+44 (0)161 2476208


Research Interests

  • Ph.D projects
    • Angus Rosenburgh M.Sc.: Sphagnum restoration in the Southern Pennines. (Director of Studies (DOS): Dr. Simon Caporn, co-supervisors Prof. Nancy Dise, Dr. Robin Sen and Dr. Matt Buckler, Moors for the Future Partnership. (Funding 2009-2013: Moors for the Future Partnership and Manchester Metropolitan University).
    • Mario Toubes-Rodrigo M.Sc.: Geo-microbiology of the glacial basal ice-sediment interface. Dr. Simon Cook (DOS), Co-Supervisors: Dr. Robin Sen and Dr. David Elliott (Funding: 2014-2017, MMU RKE and Royal Geographical Society).
    • Vanessa Hulm M.Sc.: Genetic diversity of MHC loci in European grayling (Thymallus thymallus) and relations with the bacteriome and environmental drivers. Dr. Jonathan Ellis (DOS) (Plymouth University), Dr. Ed Harris (MMU), Dr Robin Sen, Dr. Martin Jones (University of East Anglia), Dr. Richard Cove (Natural Resources Wales) and Dr. Steven Weiss (External Advisor). (Funding 2014-2016 MMU RKE Studentship an Grayling Research Trust).
  • Group Projects
    • Microbial biodiverity and functionung in biological crusts Robin Sen (PI), Dr David Elliott (PDRA), Prof. Steve Hoon and Dr. Andrew Thomas (Aberystwyth University) (2013-2015) (Funding MMU Faculty award).
    • Saltmarsh restoration impacts on soil microbiomics at the Steart Peninsula. Dr. Hannah Mosseman (PI) and Co-Is Dr. Robin Sen and Dr. David Elliott (2014-2015) Funding MMU SIA award).
    • Sustainable low-input nursery production and out-planting success and soil mycobiome assessments of Scots pine in a red band needle blight diseased clear-cut. Dr. Robin Sen, Co-Is Mr Alex Steepe and Mr. Vernon Stockton (Forestry Commission, Delamere) (2011-2016, Funding: MMU SIA and Forestry Commision, Delamere)
    • Plant-Microbe-Soil Fuel Cell optimisation. PI: Dr. Robin Sen, CoIs. Prof. Craig Banks and Dr. David Elliott. (2014-2015, Funding MMU SIA award).

    Selected Publications

    Brearley, F.Q., Elliott, D.R., Iribar, A. & Sen, R. (2016). Arbuscular mycorrhizal community structure on co-existing tropical legume trees in French Guiana. Plant and Soil DOI: 10.1007/s11104-016-2818-0

    Toubes-Rodrigo, M.,Cook, S.J., Elliott, D.R. & Sen, R. (2016). Sampling and describing ice. In. Geomorphological Techniques Chapter 3.4.1. Eds. S.J. Cook, L. Clark and J. Nield. British Society for Geomorphology pp. 1-9 (ISSN 2047-0371)

    Vázquez, M. A., Sen, R. & Soto, M. (2015). Physico-chemical and biological characteristics of compost from decentralised composting programmes. Bioresource Technology 198: 520-532.

    Elliott, D.R., Caporn, S.J.M., Nwaishi, F., Nilsson, R.H, & Sen, R. (2015). Bacterial and fungal communities in a degraded ombrotrophic peatland undergoing natural and managed re-vegetation. PLoS ONE 10.1371/journal.pone.0124726

    Sen, R. (2015). Micro-organisms, -biomes and -networks of Earth's living soils. Microbiology Today 42: 58-61.

    Gange, A.C. & Sen, R. (2014). Mycorrhizae RHS The Garden 8: 46-48.

    Elliott, D.R., Thomas, A. D., Hoon, S.R. & Sen, R (2014). Niche partitioning of bacterial communities in biological crusts and soils under grasses, shrubs and trees in the Kalahari. Biodiversity and Conservation 23: 1709-1733.

    Veresoglou, S.D., Shaw, L. J., Hooker, J.E. and Sen, R. (2012). Arbuscular mycorrhizal modulation of diazotrophic and denitrifying microbial communities in the (mycor)-rhizosphere of Plantago lanceolata. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 58: 78-81.

    Veresoglou, S.D., Sen, R., Mamolos, A.P. & Veresoglou, D.S. (2011). Plant species identity and arbuscular mycorrhizal status modulate potential nitrification rates in nitrogen-limited grassland soils. Journal of Ecology 99: 1339-1349.

    Veresoglou, S.D., Voulgari, O.K. Sen, R. , Mamolos, A.P. & Veresoglou, D.S. (2011). Effects of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilization on soil pH-plant productivity relationships in two upland grasslands in northern Greece. Pedosphere 21: 750-752.

    Veresoglou, S.D., Mamolos, A.P. Thornton, B., Voulgari, O. K., Sen, R. & Veresoglou, D.S. (2011). Medium-term fertilization of grassland plant communities masks plant species-linked effects on soil microbial community structure. Plant and Soil 344: 187-196.

    Veresoglou, S.D., Shaw, L. J. & Sen, R. (2011). Glomus intraradices and Gigaspora margarita arbuscular mycorrhizal associations differentially affect nitrogen and potassium nutrition of Plantago lanceolata in a low fertility dune soil. Plant and Soil 340: 481-490.

    Oddsdottir, E.S., Nielsen, C., Sen, R., Harding, S., Eilenberg, J. & Halldorsson, G. (2010). Distribution patterns of entomopathogenic fungi in soil and birch symbiotic ectomycorrhizal fungi across native woodland and degraded habitats in Iceland. Icelandic Agricultural Sciences 23: 37-49.

    Oddsdottir, E.S., Eilenberg, J., Sen, R. Harding, S & Halldorsson, G. (2010). Early reduction of Otiorhynchus spp. larval root herbivory of Betula pubescens by beneficial soil fungi. Applied Soil Ecology 45: 168-174.

    Abarenkov, K., Nilsson, H., Larsson K.-H., Alexander, I.J., Eberhardt, U, Erland, S, Høiland, K., Kjøller, R, Larsson, E.,Pennanen, T., Sen, R., Taylor, A.F.S., Tedersoo, L., Ursing, B.M., Vrålstad, T., Liimatainen, K., Peintner, U., Kõljalg, U. (2010).The UNITE database for molecular identification of fungi - recent updates and future perspectives. New Phytologist 186: 281-284.

    Oddsdottir, E.S., Eilenberg, J., Sen, R. & Halldorsson, G. (2010). The effects of insect pathogenic soil fungi and ectomycorrhizal inoculation of birch seedlings on the survival of Otiorhyncus larvae. Agricultural and Forest Entomology 12: 319-324.

    Heinonsalo, J. & Sen, R. (2007). Scots pine ectomycorrhizal fungal inoculum potential and dynamics in podzol-specific humus, eluvial and illuvial horizons one and four growth seasons after forest clear-cut logging. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 37: 404-414. 

    Kaparakis, G. & Sen, R. (2006). Bi-nucleate Rhizoctonia (Ceratorhiza spp.) induce adventitious root formation in hypocotyl cuttings of Pinus sylvestris L. Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research 21: 444-449.

    Juuti, J., Jokela, S., Paulin, L., Timonen, S. & Sen, R. (2004). Suillus bovinus glutamine synthetase gene organisation, transcription and enzyme activities in the Scots pine mycorrhizosphere developed on forest humus. New Phytologist 164: 389-399

    Kõljalg U., Larsson, K.-H., Abarenkov, K., Nilsson, H.R., Alexander, I.J., Eberhardt, U., Erland, S., Kjøller, R., Larsson, E., Pennanen, T., Sen, R., Taylor, A.F.S., Vrålstad, T., Tedersoo, L., & Ursing, B.M. (2005). UNITE - a database providing web-based methods for the molecular identification of ectomycorrhizal fungi. New Phytologist 166: 1063-1068

    Moora, M., Öpik, M., Sen, R. & Zobel, M. (2004). Native arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities differentially influence the seedling performance of rare and common Pulsatilla spp. Functional Ecology 18: 554-562

    Hoffland, E., Kuyper, T., Wallander, H., Plassard, C., Gorbushina, A., Haselwandter, K.,Holmström, S., Landeweert, R., Lundström, U., Rosling, A., Sen, R., Smits, M., van Hees, P. & van Breemen, N. (2004). The role of fungi in weathering. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 2: 258-264

    Sen, R. (2003). The root-microbe-soil interface: new tools for sustainable plant production. New Phytologist 157: 391-394

    Öpik, M., Moora, M., Liira, J., Kõljalg, U., Zobel, M. and Sen, R. (2003). Divergent arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities colonize roots of Pulsatilla spp. in boreal Scots pine forest and grassland soils. New Phytologist 160: 581-593

Robin Sen



+44 (0)161 2476208