Personal profile

Research interests

My research interests all center around entomological ecology. Anything to do with insects is interesting, particularly tri-trophic interactions between plants and insects. My specific current areas address questions in the field of population dynamics (mainly of herbivorous insects, but I am also working on vector populations), pollination ecology (biodiversity & conservation), dung beetle community dynamics and more generally biodiversity in the urban landscape.

Recently I have started doing more research into plastics/microplasticsin the environment. I am looking at questions such as effect on invertebrate feeding interactions, bioaccumulation in the food chain and trophic interactions (both aquatic & terrestrial).

Approach to teaching

I am fascinated on how different species interact understanding the complexity of ecosystems. Particularly the interactions between plants and animals are amazing and these facts I try to pass on to my students. I am an enthusiastic and dedicated teacher and am especially keen on student participation (there is no stupid question!) and engagement in their own learning. Most of my modules have an applied aspect to it, but I also incorporate reflective practices, team working, debates and discussions – all aimed at the personal development of my students. I regularly attend “teaching and Learning Conferences” to learn new innovative teaching approaches and technologies to support student learning, which I can then implement in my classes. In a nut shell in all my teaching is aimed at passing on at least a bit of my fascination of the living world, encouraging a learning and understanding of the function of natural systems and enhancing the student experience.

Scholarly biography

Having lived abroad throughout my childhood – first East Africa, then Malaysia and finally India I had ample exposure to the large variety of living organisms and that encourage my fascination with biodiversity and the question of how things interact. I did biology A-levels with a clear goal of working in the field of animal behavior. With that in mind, I started doing a Zoology degree in India for a year (which involved a multitude of fascinating field trips but also taught me about the hazards of field work in the subtropics) before going back to Germany to pursue my studies in Biology in earnest. A German Biology degree requires an understanding in not only zoology, botany, microbiology and genetics, but it also provides in-depth opportunities of learning all the different fields which are part of the biosciences. I quickly discovered that not specifically behavior but animal ecology was the area I wanted to specialize in, and from there it was only a small step to expanding my fascination of insects. I spent a whole year on my Master’s thesis looking at the soil invertebrates of wetland meadows and graduated in 1991. I went on to do a PhD at Imperial College in the field of community ecology, and started my first post-doc position in 1996 – this time looking at efficiency of predators of spider mites on different plant species.

I start my first lecture position in 1999 at Imperial College at Wye, teaching MSc modules on ecology, entomology and crop protection. From there I went to Switzerland for 6.5 years to work as a scientific research associate at the ETH in Zurich. Here again I was lecturing ecology, entomology and integrated pest management, as well as developing my research in the field of tri-trophic interactions and community ecology. In 2007 I took up my lectureship in Brighton. I successfully completed my PGCert in 2008 and also took up course leadership of the Biological Sciences course. In 2012 I was promoted to Principal lecturer and since them have been covering various roles from course  leader in Ecology, Assistant Head of School PG Education, Ecology Subject Leader and Head of Biology Division.

I am still engage in various research projects with insects, but have also expanded into other areas, such as the rhino behavior project, biodiversity on green roofs, and my most recent one microplastics and marine invertebrates.

Supervisory Interests

I am interested in supervising postgraduate research students in the following areas: micro-plastics, tri-trophic interactions, field population dynamics, pollination ecology & biodiversity in the urban landscape.

Current PhD

currently none

Previous PhD

Niall Walkden (2019) Attitudes and perceptions of South African residents towards native vertebrate scavengers

Amanda Flint (2018) A temporal and spatial analysis of species co-occurrence patterns within a chalk heath community

Ute Vogler (2009) “The impact of transgenic apples on multitrophic interactions”

Johanna Häckermann (2007) “Biological elimination of Cydia molesta infestations from the orchard as a key component of an environmental friendly control”

Edward Connor (2007) “The plant’s contribution in guiding beneficial insectd to the site of caterpillar damage by chemical signalling”

Gudio Velten (2006) “Food chain legumes: combining natural resources for safe storage and favourable food processing”

Nadia Scaschighini (2004) “From the behavioural to the molecular level in insect-plant interactions: attraction of parasitic wasps by herbivore-induced plant chemical signals”

Previous MRes

Jo Middelton (2017) Ecological determinants of Lyme borreliosis risk in the South Downs National Park and the potential for one-health based interventions.

Sophie Bracken (2016) An evaluation of how a range of UK green roofs vary in terms of floral diversity and associated pollinator diversity.

Aaron White (2015) Agricultural influences on moth communities and their composition in ancient semi-natural woodlands and conifer plantations: Potential implications for management and native broadleaf re-establishment

Joanne Carnell (2015) Pollinator conservation and the value of domestic urban gardens.

Markus Jaskari (2013) Factors influencing pollination success of the Burnt Orchid Neotinea ustulata.

Robert Fowler (2011) Does pollen quality influence the floral acceptance and foraging effectiveness of bumblesbees.

Previous MSc

Severin Roffler (2006) Does the nesting material of Megachilidae bees contain antimicrobial substances? (joint MSc thesis in collaboration with Dr. M. Müller)

Susanne Brand (2005) Influence of chemical emissions of codling moth infested apples on Hyssopus pallidus.

Nayuta Brand (2004) Host location of Dinarmus basalis – the role of chemical cues emitted from beans.

Antonia Zurbuchen (2004 / 2005) Host location behaviour of Dinarmus basalis.

Johanna Häckermann (2003) The effect of seasonal variation in volatile emission from apples on the behaviour of the parasitoid Hyssopus pallidus.

Fatma Lüthi-Kivrak (2002 / 2003) Simulation of caterpillar feeding behaviour and analysis of artificially induced phytochemicals.

Education/Academic qualification

Senior Fellow of the HE Academy, Higher Education Academy, UK

Award Date: 15 Nov 2017

PhD, Indirect interactions in host-parasitoid communities, Imperial College London

Award Date: 1 Aug 1996


  • QL Zoology
  • Insect Ecology
  • Plant Animal Interactions
  • Urban Ecology
  • Aquatic Invertebrates
  • Biodiversity
  • Plankton Tow
  • Zooplankton
  • Dung Beetles
  • Ticks
  • Lyme Disease
  • QH301 Biology


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