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Dr PJ Gates, BA (Oxon) Ph.D. (Dunelm)

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Phil Gates graduated from Oxford University with a BA in Botany in 1973 and, after working at the National Vegetable Research Station at Wellesbourne, completed a Ph.D on the application of isoenzyme technology to plant breeding at Durham University in 1978.

His subsequent research focussed on plant breeding methods applied to Vicia faba (jointly with ICARDA in Aleppo, Syria) and rice (jointly with IRRI at Los Banos, Philippines). Other research included studies on desert trees in the Wahiba Sands of Oman.

Since the early 1990s Phil Gates has developed expertise in Science Communication and Science Journalism. He has written science features for the Sunday Post; Northern Echo; the Guardian; the Independent on Sunday; BBC Gardeners’ World (monthly column 1992-2005); BBC Wildlife; Kew magazine; Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society (The Garden); She; Australian Geographical Magazine and New Scientist and he has been a regular columnist for BBC Gardeners’ World magazine and BBC Wildlife.

Phil Gates has written 17 science books for young people and has won or has been shortlisted for the following literary awards:

2002 Special Commendation in the Periodical Publishers’ Association Awards for Editorial and Publishing Excellence, in the Specialist Writer of the Year Category, for science and natural history articles published in BBC Wildlife.
1999. Journalist of the Year, Garden Writer’s Guild awards (for science articles in The Garden (Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society).
1999. Winner, Longman History Today ‘New Generation’ Book of the Year, for The History News: Medicine (see list of books, below)
1999. Short-listed for the Royal Society Committee for the Public Understanding of Science (COPUS) / Aventis Prize for Science Books, for the best science book for under-14 year-old readers (for Evolve or Die!).
1998. Journalist of the Year, Garden Writer’s Guild Awards (for science articles in The Garden (Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society).
1996. Short-listed for the Royal Society Committee for the Public Understanding of Science (COPUS) / Rhône-Poulenc Prize for Science Books, for the best science book for under -14 year-old readers (for Wild Technology).
1992. Highly Commended in The Mike Gilligan Prize for Environmental Journalism (North East Press Awards), for environmental science articles in the Northern Echo.
1992. Runner-up in the BBC Wildlife Essay Awards for Natural History Writing (Professional category).
1987. Runner-up in the BBC Wildlife Essay Awards for Natural History Writing (Professional category).

Evolve of Die!, in the Scholastic Horrible Science series, has been translated into 14 languages.

Phil Gates has a strong interest in wildlife conservation and is a former chairman of Durham Wildlife Trust and past President of the Northern Naturalists' Union. He is on the editorial advisory board of BBC Wildlife magazine. His book Spring Fever, published in 1992, was an early prognosis for the impact of climate change on Britain’s flora and fauna that contains a number of predictions that have since been borne out by experience. He has also recorded numerous broadcasts with the BBC Natural History Unit for Radio 4, for programmes such as The Living World. He has been the Guardian County Diarist for County Durham since 1988 and Northern Echo Country Diarist since 1984. He also maintains three science/natural history blogs:

A Digital Botanic Garden
Beyond the Human Eye
Cabinet of Curiosites

All three of the above are also listed in the Nature Great Science Blogs at

Phil Gates has applied his science communication skills to undergraduate teaching. In 2000 he was nominated by Durham University for a National Teaching Fellowship award and in 2001 received a Durham University Excellence in Learning and Teaching Award.

Research Interests

  • Horticulture
  • Native flora in land restoration
  • Plant breeding
  • Plant developmental anatomy
  • Science Communication
  • Science journalism

Indicators of Esteem

  • 2006: BBC Radio 2004-2009: BBC Radio 4. The Garden [series of 5 programmes]. In production, for transmission in November 2009;BBC Radio 4. Life on Sandy beaches. First transmitted in December 2007;BBC Radio 4. The Flora of Teesdale. First transmitted June 2007;BBC Radio 4 The Living World: The Miniature World of Slitt Wood. First transmitted 25/03/2007;BBC Radio 4 The Reed Bed [Series of 5 programmes] Transmitted 19-23/03/2007;BBC Radio 4 Nature: 100 Years of Guardian Country Diaries.First transmitted 12/02/2007; BBC Radio 4 The Living World: Life Amongst the Christmas Trees. First transmitted 17/12/2006;BBC Radio 4 The Living World: Lime, Gin and Juniper. First transmitted 18/06/2006;BBC Radio 4 The Oak Tree [Series of 5 programmes] First transmitted 20-24/03/2006;BBC Radio 4. Seeds in the Breeze. First transmitted 01/01/2006;BBC Radio 4 The Living World: The Stirring Trees. First transmitted 21/03/04
  • 2006: BBC Wildlife: BBC Wildlife Editorial advisor and monthly columnist (ongoing)
  • 2004: Author Popular Science Books for young people: E-Animal Encyclopedia (Dorling Kindersley/Google) Co-author
  • 2004: Science and Horticulture: Invited to present keynote address('What can Science do for Gardeners?'at the Royal Horticultural Society 200th. Anniversary Science Exchange, Natural History Museum London, 16th. March 2004.


Authored book

Journal Article

  • Davey, Matthew P., Bryant, David N., Cummins, Ian, Ashenden, Trevor W., Gates, Phillip, Baxter, Robert & Edwards, Robert (2004). Effects of elevated CO2 on the vasculature and phenolic secondary metabolism of Plantago maritima. Phytochemistry 65(15): 2197-2204.
  • Gates, Phil (2002). Peat, gardeners and conservation. Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society 127(3): 200-203.
  • Gates, Phil (1999). Walking with Dinosaurs: Uprooting the Past (Plant evolution). BBC Wildlife 17(10): 38-44.

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • General issues: crops/agriculture
  • General issues: environmental issues, especially:
  • Wildlife: wildlife
  • Ethics: ethical issues in science, genetic engineering & biotechnology
  • Regional landscape & environment: crops/agriculture
  • Regional landscape & environment: environment issues, especially:
  • The Earth: Plants: plant breeding
  • The Earth: Plants: crops/agriculture
  • The Earth: Plants: environmental issues, especially:
  • People: Civilisation & land use: crops/agriculture