Imperial College London

Lily Peck

Faculty of Natural SciencesThe Grantham Institute for Climate Change

Casual - Academic Professional







Hamilton BuildingSilwood Park





My work focusses upon ensuring healthy and happy future generations, with sustainably grown resources and nutritious food. My interests cover microbial diversity and environmental change.

PhD: Seventy years of Fusarium wilt - coffee interactions: historical genomics reveals pathogen emergence and divergence

Supervisors: Prof. Tim Barraclough (University of Oxford) and Dr Matt Ryan 

PhD candidate on the NERC Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet (SSCP) Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment. My research focusses on the use of optimally preserved fungal culture collection strains in understanding the evolution and emergence of new types of disease. 

Food security is an important challenge for human populations worldwide. Nearly 50% of crop yields globally are lost to pests and diseases, and reducing these losses is essential for meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 2 to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.” Efficient food production methods are needed that guarantee adequate supply and economic returns, whilst limiting the environmental impacts such as habitat modification, pesticide use and eutrophication. One of the main areas for tackling these problems is in the control of pathogens. Pathogens and their associated crop hosts have been locked in an on-going co-evolutionary process for millennia of “boom and bust cycles” of disease epidemics, and a key challenge is predicting how this will respond to climate change.

My thesis focusses on sustainable disease management of Fusarium coffee wilt disease, with novel strategies to reduce the evolutionary potential of Fusarium xylarioides, the causal agent. I use mycological and molecular techniques to infer the evolutionary mechanisms which led to genetic changes. Coffee Wilt Disease decimated coffee production in west and central Africa in the 20th century, and now comprises two epidemics in east and central Africa. In June 2021, we sequenced six historical strains collected since the 1950s to identify the evolutionary processes behind repeated outbreaks of Coffee Wilt Disease. Our findings support a working hypothesis that two host-specific populations partly acquired distinct effector genes via transposon-mediated horizontal transfer from F. oxysporum, which shares coffee as a host and lives on other plants intercropped with coffee. 

I combine this with professional experience in environmental policy, working across the private and public sectors including Sainsbury's, the Grantham Institute, the UK Government and UK Parliament. 



Ryan MJ, Peck LD, Smith D, et al., 2022, Culture collections as a source of historic strains for genomic studies in plant pathology, Journal of Plant Pathology, ISSN:1125-4653

Peck LD, Nowell RW, Flood J, et al., 2021, Correction to: Historical genomics reveals the evolutionary mechanisms behind multiple outbreaks of the host-specific coffee wilt pathogen Fusarium xylarioides., Bmc Genomics, Vol:22

Barraclough T, Peck L, Nowell R, 2021, Historical genomics reveals the evolutionary mechanisms behind multiple outbreaks of the host-specific coffee wilt pathogen Fusarium xylarioides, Bmc Genomics, Vol:22, ISSN:1471-2164

More Publications