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I am interested in discovering how environmental change affects species and their interactions.
I have studied a wide range of plants and many types of animals, including small mammals, birds and insects such as bees, moths and hoverflies.
The causes of species vulnerability
I am interested in the relationship of species’ biological traits (such as body size or generation time) to their sensitivity to environmental change. I am also using large-scale datasets at the Biological Records Centre to ask about the spatial distribution of rare species. Overall, I am keen to understand how to better focus conservation and monitoring effort.
Each species does not exist in isolation, but interacts with other species to form highly complex ecological networks, such as food webs. I am interested in whether the structure of networks is affected by environment change and how this affects ecosystem resilience.
I am keen to understand the full complexity of ecological networks, including the adaptability of individual species, and the multiple roles that each species can in networks, e.g. plants benefitting both pollinators and to herbivores, or hoverflies being both pollinators (as adults) and aphid predators (as larvae).
Species in ecological networks differ in characteristics such as their inherent biological traits and sensitivity to environmental change and I am asking whether species’ traits can be explained by their importance in networks. This research sets individual species in the context of their networks of interactions.
Citizen science and public engagement with science
I am keen to communicate with people how “we rely on nature, and nature relies on us” and regularly work with schools and run displays at events. I also lead several citizen science projects with the aim of collectively undertaking hypothesis-led research.
I co-lead Conker Tree Science in which we invite people to take part to discover more about an invasive insect that is damaging horse-chestnut trees. People’s involvement allows us to answer scientific questions at larger spatial and temporal scales than would otherwise be possible.
I am involved with many other projects to engage people with science, including working with the Observer newspaper to monitor the spread of invasive species, developing the LeafWatch and PlantTracker apps for monitoring invasive species, and monitoring pollinators on Open Farm Sunday.
- 2011-present: Ecologist, CEH
- 2009-2012: NERC Research Fellow
- 2003-2009: Research Associate, University of Bristol
- 2002: Research Assistant, University of Leeds
- 1997-2001: PhD, University of York
- Board of Directors of the Citizen Science Association (2018-2020)
- Associate editor, Journal of Applied Ecology and Citizen Science: Theory & Practice (2019 onwards)
- Member of the NERC peer review college
- Chair of the A Rocha International Conservation Science Advisory Council
- Member of the RCUK Public Engagement with Research Advisory Panel (to 2018)