Research Group

Present members
Postdoctoral researchers

Daniel Cox – Nighttime ecology

Current research My current role is focused on understanding the ecology of the nighttime, a relatively unexplored area of ecology. Most researchers often consider nighttime to be similar to the day but without the light. However, the nighttime environment has its own sets of ecological conditions that drive evolution and ecosystem function, such as lower temperatures and varying amounts of biologically useful light. My research focuses on understanding the ecology of the night at both the macroecological and community ecology scales.

Research interests I am an ecologist and field researcher who is interested in macroecological patterns, behavioural ecology, life history and applied conservation (particularly of birds). I am also an interdisciplinary research scientist, who brings an ecological perspective to exploring the relationship between experiences of nature and human health, with an emphasis on the role that birds play.

Previous research Most recently I held the role of research fellow at the University of Exeter’s European Centre for the Environment and Human Health in Truro. There I systematically mapped the benefits and costs to human health of interacting with the seas and oceans in Europe.  Previous to this position I spent almost five years working with Professor Gaston exploring the relationship between between biodiversity and people in cities. I explored the health and well-being benefits from nature and the role of specific components of nature in providing these benefits. My research has included a strong African component including the seasonality of life history traits in West African birds and conducting biodiversity surveys in the remote mountains, savannahs and ocean of Tanzania.

Sahran Higgins – Flood Resilience and Biodiversity (StARR project)

Current Research I am currently working on an exciting multi-partner project that takes a whole catchment approach to using natural flood management solutions to improve flood resilience. Working with key project partners including Cornwall Council, West Country Rivers Trust and the Environment Agency, I lead and facilitate participation in the development of habitat management plans to improve flood resilience and biodiversity using these natural flood management solutions. Findings from long term biodiversity monitoring within the catchments will be used to inform evidence based decision making in relation to natural flood management strategies.

Research Interests I am an ecologist whose research interests focus on the ecology of environment and health interactions. I am particularly interested in freshwater ecology and in understanding how ecosystem processes and functions are key in developing climate change adaptation and resilience strategies and in doing so, provide multiple co-benefits and ‘win-win’ scenarios for nature and society.

Previous Research I hold a PhD in Evolutionary Ecology (University of Exeter) and have a background in freshwater ecology (Environment Agency). My research has focussed broadly on the interactions between humans and nature, spanning microbial to landscape level. I have worked on several large, pan-European projects with the European Centre for Environment and Human Health, University of Exeter Medical School, that have explored how various aspects of human health interact with species rich natural spaces, particularly in urban settings. And in understanding the nexus between ecosystem services, climate change and health. Most recently, my research has explored the landscape-level environmental and ecological factors that may contribute to exposure risk of antimicrobial resistant bacteria in urban coastal waters of Hong Kong funded through the Chinese University of Hong Kong and University of Exeter Joint Centre for Environmental Sustainability and Resilience (ENSURE) research centre.

Stephen LoweEnvironmental Growth for Business (Impact fellow)

Current Research This project is supporting delivery of Cornwall’s 2015-2065 Environmental Growth Strategy, through development of a Natural Capital Information and Management Hub, as a part of the Environmental Growth for Business (EG4B) project. It is developing an interface between SMEs in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and a robust database of natural capital, assisting in the development of new business opportunities through engagement with sustainable technologies and environmental datasets.

Research Interests My primary research interests are associated with sustainable development, and the adoption of sustainability led behaviours. I am interested in the development of new technologies and processes to aid environmental protection, environmental growth and sustainability. I am also interested in the linkages between academia and business, particularly within the context of environmental protection and environmental science.

Previous Research My research has focused on the application of new methods to environmental protection, remediation and sustainability. My former research work was focused on the development of in vitro methods to assess the bioaccessibility of soil bound contaminants. It focused on the modelling of PCB absorption within the human body, exploring the potential impact on human health focused policy and implications for increased sustainable development through the re-use of brownfield sites within urban environments. I feel my research background combines quantitative analytical work with a strong focus on the environmental and societal impacts of academic research.

Jonathan Mosedale – Mainstreaming Environmental Growth (SWEEP impact fellow)

Current research The project is supporting the delivery and monitoring of Cornwall’s Environmental Growth Strategy by developing suitable mapping and analytical approaches to monitor the state of ecosystem services, and assess the impacts and dependencies of SMEs (small and medium sized enterprises) on natural capital.

Research interests are many and diverse including climate modelling, forestry, food science and viticulture. I am also interested in the relationship between science, policy and culture, having taught and written on the relationship between science and religion, and hold a TWP fellowship with Arizona State University (2016-18).

Previous research My early research career was spent at the University of Oxford and Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique exploring how oak wood influences the maturation of wines and spirits. I have worked as a Statistician and Senior Policy Adviser within the Department for Transport, on science and technology policies to improve transport security and information management. Most recently I have been modelling local climatic conditions and seeking to assess the implications for vineyards in South-west England.

Alejandro Sánchez de MiguelMapping ecological risks from the colour spectrum of artificial nighttime lighting (NERC).

Current research Before now data on spatial variation in the emissions of artificial nighttime lighting (from streetlights and other sources) at different wavelengths (perceived as colour) has largely been lacking, particularly at geographic scales. In this project we will resolve this problem, and determine the likely severity across Europe of an array of ecological impacts of artificial lighting of the nighttime environment. We will do this by creating environmental risk maps using data from a novel and largely untapped source, the colour images taken using conventional SLR cameras by astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

This project complements the Cities at Night project that I coordinate and run. Cities at Night is a citizen science program to prepare the images taken by astronauts for scientific exploration by tagging, locating and georeferencing them.

Research interests Light pollution; Nocturnal remote sensing; Meteors; Citizen science; Galaxy evolution.

Previous research As an astrophysicist my previous research has focussed on investigating artificial light at night. My PhD (Complutense University of Madrid) investigated spatial, temporal and spectral variation of light pollution and its sources. I use astrophysics techniques to collect data on artificial light at night on the earth from the stratosphere and higher altitudes. I am a member of the board of directors for the International Dark Sky Association and an advisor at the sky quality office for the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía.

PhD students

Simone Ackermann – Studying the impacts of light pollution on protected areas.

Current Research  My research will be exploring the erosion of natural darkness in protected areas around the world, with particular focus centred in my home country of South Africa. I will also be exploring the possibility of obtaining the first coloured images of light pollution and integrating them into existing data to determine the changes in the colour spectrum of light pollution. Over the last decade colour spectrums of light have become a key focus in studying artificial light at night with the shift to whiter full spectrum lighting technologies.

Research Interests I am interested in how light pollution may be affecting protected areas, and the land surrounding them. Especially how night time illumination inside these areas, from tourism related activities may be eroding natural darkness.

Previous Research My previous work has taken an experimental approach to examining the effects artificial night time lighting may have on the biological rhythms and other aspects of physiology of small mammals in South Africa.

Vinka Anic Thomas – Seeing the light: Growth and flowering responses in wildflowers under artificial nighttime lighting

Current research My research is focused on evaluating the effect of artificial nighttime lighting on different stages of the life plant cycle which are under photoperiodic control. To do so, we are conducting a long-term experiment using LEDs in order to simulate the effect of street lights on wildflowers. I am supervised by Prof Kevin Gaston and Dr Jon Bennie.

Research interests I am interested in how the disruption of natural light cycles affects developmental transitions and flowering responses in plants. I’m also interested in determining which biotic and abiotic factors influence plant reproduction, plant abundance, and species composition.

Previous research My research has focused mainly on the relationship between species composition and soil chemical properties, particularly metal content. Moreover, I have used gradient analysis to assess the importance of water quality on both plant abundance in High Andean meadows and phytoplankton structure. I have also tested the effect of number of conspecifics on reproduction and pollinator visitation in Eschscholzia californica, an invasive plant in Chile. I identified plant samples for over three years as part of a research project on flora of central Chile.

Katy Chapman – Impacts of artificial light at night on bee-plant interactions (NERC GW4+ DTP and CASE partnership with South Devon AONB)

Current research In my PhD, I will investigate whether artificial lighting, particularly at twilight, affects the typical foraging behaviours of bumblebees and honeybees in South Devon. I will test hypotheses regarding potential direct (e.g. changed sensory perception) and indirect (e.g. floral reward availability) effects of ALAN on foraging behaviour in these important pollinators, thorough field experiments in the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). I am supervised by Prof Natalie Hempel de Ibarra, Prof Kevin Gaston, Roger English (South Devon AONB) and Dr Heather Whitney (University of Bristol). 

Research interests I am primarily interested in sensory ecology, especially how environmental and social cues and signals determine the behaviour of animals, how human pollution in different modalities can disrupt these normal behaviours, and how we can develop and introduce simple mitigation policy to reduce these impacts.

Previous research My MRes focused on the impact of motorboat noise on parental care behaviours in coral-reef fish, in particular using field experiments and in situ boats, as opposed to recorded playback, to get a realistic picture of potential fitness effects of noise pollution. I have also previously worked on flight behaviours and decision making in raptors and social colour change in chameleons.

Alexandra Gardner – Prospects for novel crops in a warming climate (NERC)

Current Research Producing enough food while leaving space for nature will be one of the major challenges faced by humanity over the course of this century, particularly as the climate continues to warm. Producing higher-value crops typically requires less land, permitting more land to be devoted to conserving biodiversity. This research project will help develop and apply the latest high-resolution microclimate models to identify places that are most climatically conducive to growing a range of novel crops, using Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly as a case study. It hopes to help resolve conflicts between farming and biodiversity and suggest practical solutions to the issue food security which can be applied globally. I am supervised by Dr. Ilya Maclean and Professor Kevin Gaston

Research interests Applied ecology, climate change adaptation, conservation, environmental policy

Previous research I have carried out projects which have focussed on the impact of different agricultural management techniques on Harvest Mouse (Micromys minutus) abundance and distribution, and assessed the impact of different conservation techniques on the habitat quality and population recovery of two rare butterfly species in the South Downs National Park.

Katie Hall– Behaviour of bees in dim light (BBSRC)

Current research My overarching aim for this PhD project is to establish key evidence on how light pollution affects the activity and foraging behaviour of bees. For the first 6 months of my PhD I will be completing a rotational project in Professor Kevin Gaston’s group looking at how plants respond to artificial light at night time. My work will provide scientific evidence to support the evaluation of potential risks that come with the ongoing extension of artificial light. I am supervised by Prof Natalie Hempel de Ibarra and Prof Kevin Gaston.

Research interests My main interest is in animal behaviour especially the behaviour of insects and how emerging factors, caused by the increasing human population, affect their behaviour.

Previous research My research has generally focussed on animal behaviour in changing environments. Most recently I have examined the spatial aspects of foraging behaviour in Eastern honeybees, Apis cerana.

Rachel Kehoe – Adapting to climate change: the impact of changing daylight regimes on range-shifting insect populations (NERC)

Current research I am looking into the impact of climate change induced range expansion on the different life history stages of overwintering insects. I am supervised by Dr. Frank van Veen  and Professor Kevin Gaston.

Research interests I am interested in climate change and photoperiod implications on whole communities.

Previous research I have worked on aphids and parasitoids, both with reference to artificial light at night and extinction cascades.

Benjamin Phillips – Hedges and road verges as habitat networks for biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Current research My research is exploring the biodiversity that hedgerows and road verges support, and the benefits that this biodiversity provides in terms of ecosystem services. I am working in partnership with the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) unit to identify best management of hedgerows and road verges, in terms of conservation of both biodiversity and natural capital. I am supervised by Professor Juliet Osborne and Professor Kevin Gaston.

Research interests I am broadly interested in finding better ways to manage the environment around us in order to conserve nature, which can provide direct benefits to human health, wellbeing and quality of life. I am interested in taking a holistic, cross-discipline and collaborative approach to solving problems that considers the opinions and perspectives of all stakeholders, and results in real beneficial changes in management.

Previous research My previous research has focused on pollinator community ecology, specifically pollination service provision to crops and impacts of climate change. I have also been involved in projects across broad disciplines in a previous role where I worked with academics to facilitate research impact.


Dave Cruse – Ecological effects of light pollution (NERC)

I provide practical support to Kevin Gaston’s research group and the Ecolight project which assesses the ecological effects of nighttime light pollution. My role is to build and maintain the equipment required throughout the experimental period of the project, as well as assisting in the collection of samples and data.

Emma RosenfeldMapping ecological risks from the colour spectrum of artificial nighttime light (NERC)

I am assisting with the analysis and processing of images taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and research into the ecological impacts of artificial light.

Research interests I have broad interests in ecology including: Urban ecology; Using mapping tools to understand landscapes; Artificial lighting; The ecology of human-nature interactions; Plant-animal interactions

Previous research I worked on the SECURE project supporting Dr. Iain Stott, Dr. América Paz Durán and Prof Kevin Gaston focussing on urban tree and ecosystem service quantification. My PhD (Univ Birmingham) investigated the importance of connectivity in the urban landscape to bird populations. Other previous work has involved GIS analysis, field work and studying various systems including moths, butterflies, birds and trees. I have also carried out ecological surveying and cartographic work.

Past members
Postdoctoral fellows and researchers

  • Rachel Morrison – SWEEP and Cornwall Council (Exeter 2018-19)
  • Dirk Sanders (Exeter 2016-19) – Effects of artificial light on multi-trophic population dynamics (NERC)
  • Daniel Cox (Exeter 2013-17) – Interactions between nature and people in urban environments and extinction of experience; Research Group Coordinator (BESS: NERC)
  • Sophie Nedelec (Exeter 2016-17) – Ecological effects of light pollution (EcoLight: ERC)
  • Thomas Davies (Exeter 2011-17) – Ecological effects of light pollution (EcoLight: ERC)
  • Jon Bennie (Exeter 2011-16) – Ecological effects of light pollution (EcoLight: ERC)
  • Stefano Casalegno (Exeter 2011-16) – The distribution, dynamics and interactions of ecosystem goods and services in Cornwall; Fragments, functions and flows – the scaling of biodiversity and ecosystem services in urban ecosystems (BESS: NERC)
  • Richard Inger (Exeter 2012-16) – Ecosystem service provision by wild birds; Research Group coordinator.
  • Steven Hancock (Exeter 2014-15) – Fragments, functions and flows – the scaling of biodiversity and ecosystem services in urban ecosystems (BESS: NERC)
  • Iain Stott (Exeter 2013-15) – Ecosystem service delivery & urban environments (SECURE: EPSRC)
  • Paz Duran (Exeter 2015) – Ecosystem service delivery & urban environments (SECURE: EPSRC)
  • Damiano Porcelli (Sheffield 2011-15) – Landscape genomics, climate change, and adaptation (NERC)
  • Antoine Cottin (Exeter 2012-13) – Fragments, functions and flows – the scaling of biodiversity and ecosystem services in urban ecosystems (BESS: NERC)
  • Barbara Goettsch (Sheffield & Exeter 2008-13) – Global Cactus Assessment (Conservation International, The Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund)
  • Felix Eigenbrod (Sheffield 2008–10) – Linking biodiversity and ecosystem services: processes, priorities and prospects; Mapping ecosystem services and their economic value over national and regional scales (NERC; Natural England)
  • Arnost Sizling (Sheffield 2007-09) – Reconciling theories of biodiversity patterns (EU)
  • Martin Dallimer (Sheffield 2006-11) – A landscape-scale analysis of the sustainability of the hill farming economy and impact of farm production decisions on upland landscapes and biodiversity (ESRC & NERC); Urban river corridors and sustainable living agendas (URSULA: EPSRC)
  • Zoe Davies (Sheffield 2006-10) – Evaluating & improving the environmental benefits of domestic gardens in urban areas (English Nature, Countryside Commission for Wales, DEFRA, Environment & Heritage Service); Measurement, Modelling, Mapping and Management (4M): an evidence-based methodology for understanding and shrinking the urban carbon footprint (EPSRC)
  • Brigitte Braschler (Sheffield 2005–08) – Capacity building for biodiversity assessments during climate change (DEFRA)
  • Sarah Jackson (Sheffield 2004–07) – The effectiveness of protected areas in Great Britain
  • Alison Loram (Sheffield 2004–07) – Evaluating & improving the environmental benefits of domestic gardens in urban areas (English Nature, Countryside Commission for Wales, DEFRA, Environment & Heritage Service)
  • Olga Barbosa (Sheffield 2004–06) – Social diversity, biodiversity and access to green space
  • Richard Fuller (Sheffield 2004-08) – The Sustainable Urban Form Consortium (EPSRC)
  • Jamie Tratalos (Sheffield 2004 –05) – The Sustainable Urban Form Consortium (EPSRC)
  • Richard Davies (Sheffield 2003–07) – Global biodiversity hotspots: evolution, ecology and extinction (NERC)
  • Karl Evans (Sheffield 2003–08) – The determinants of species-energy relationships (Leverhulme); Urban & rural birds: genetic differentiation and the process of urbanization (NERC)
  • Tom Webb (Sheffield 2002-03) – Vegetation feedbacks on climate – consequences for conservation (Conservation International)
  • David Storch (Sheffield 2002) – Species-area relationships and environmental heterogeneity (Royal Society)
  • Aletta Bonn (Sheffield 2001-03) – Reserve selection using environmental and species data
  • Richard Smith (Sheffield 2000–02) – Urban domestic gardens and creative conservation (NERC)
  • Alex Jones (Sheffield 1999–2002) – Invertebrate diversity and endemism at Gough Island and threats from introduced species (DEFRA)
  • Paul Weeks (Sheffield 1994-96) – Automated species identification (AFRC)

PhD students

  • Beth Robinson (Exeter 2013-16) – The spread & impact of invasive non-native plants in a human-dominated landscape: the case of Japanese Knotweed
  • Maru Correa Cano (Exeter 2012-16) – Macroecological patterns of plant species and anthropogenic activities
  • América Paz Durán (Exeter 2010-2015) – Effectiveness of protected areas and implications for conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services
  • Colin Bonnington (Sheffield 2009-14) – Squirrels in suburbia: the avian impacts of urban grey squirrel
  • Daniel Diaz Porras (Sheffield 2009-13) – Historical urban ecology and biodiversity
  • Charlie Bell (Sheffield 2007-11) – Protected areas, management and the conservation of rare species: the red-billed chough on Anglesey.
  • Gabriela Cruz-Piñón (Sheffield 2005-10) – The distribution of cetacean species: knowledge, modelling and patterns.
  • Celia Sélem-Salas (Sheffield 2005-09) – People, species distributions and protected areas in Britain.
  • Jo Booth (Sheffield 2005-09) – Human-nature interactions: protected areas and nature conservation in the U.K.
  • Isla Fishburn (Sheffield 2005-09) – Patterns of investment in biodiversity conservation across the United States by the non-governmental organization sector.
  • Lisette Cantú-Salazar (Sheffield 2004-09) – Large scale patterns in the ecological performance of protected areas.
  • Claire Callaghan (Leeds 2004-09) – Evaluation of the protected area network of Yorkshire and the Humber.
  • Khaled Etayeb (Sheffield 2007-11) – Population ecology of the Dipper Cinclus cinclus in urban areas.
  • Barbara Goettsch (Sheffield 2003-07) – Distribution models, ecology, and conservation: a case study of Chihuahuan Desert cacti.
  • Clara Gaspar (Sheffield 2003-07) – Arthropod diversity and conservation planning in native forests of the Azores archipelago.
  • Vicky Sims (Sheffield 2002-07)- Predation or deterrence? The impact of cats in urban environments.
  • Marco Pautasso (Sheffield 2002-05) – Large scale patterns and determinants of avian assemblage structure.
  • Andrew Cannon (Sheffield 2002-06) – Wild birds in urban gardens: opportunity or constraint?
  • Luis-Bernardo Vázquez (Sheffield 2001-05) – Distribution patterns and conservation priorities for mammals in Mexico.
  • Rashid Raza (Sheffield 2001-06) – Diversity & rarity in avifaunal assemblages in Western Himalaya: A study of patterns & mechanisms.
  • Arnold Nagy (Sheffield 2000-06) – Priority area performance and planning in areas with limited biological data.
  • Alejandro Pérez Arteaga (Sheffield 2000-05) – Conservation planning for waterbirds in Mexico.
  • Sarah Jackson (Sheffield 2000-04) – The selection of conservation networks in the face of fluctuating populations.
  • Tom Webb (Sheffield 1999-2002) – Evolved consequences of rarity: experimental and phylogenetic approaches.
  • Patricia Koleff (Sheffield 1999-2002) – Spatial species turnover: patterns, determinants, and implications.
  • Ana Rodrigues (Sheffield 1998-2002)- The selection of networks of nature reserves.
  • Alison Holt (Sheffield 1998-2002) – Positive interspecific abundance-occupancy relationships: a test of mechanisms.
  • Berndt van Rensburg (Pretoria 1998-02) – Avian diversity in Southern Africa: patterns, processes and conservation.
  • A. Addo-Bediako (Pretoria 1998-2001) – Geographic and taxonomic variation in insect ecophysiological parameters.
  • Jenny Cowling (Sheffield 1997-2001) – Physiological basis for biological invasion: the terrestrial amphipod Arcitalitrus dorrieni Hunt 1925.
  • Andy Brewer (Sheffield 1996-2000) – Spatial variation in the abundance of the holly leaf miner (Phytomyza ilicis).
  • Natasha Loder (Sheffield 1993-97) – Insect species-body size distributions.


  • Simon Aurel Dzurjak (Exeter 2018-19) – Mapping ecological risks from the colour spectrum of artificial nighttime lighting (NERC).
  • Angela Bartlett (Exeter 2017-18) – Mapping ecological risks from the colour spectrum of artificial nighttime lighting (NERC)
  • Fraser Bell (Exeter 2016-17) – Effects of artificial light on multi-trophic population dynamics (NERC)
  • Lauren Holt (Exeter 2016-17) – Ecological impacts of light pollution (Ecolight: ERC)
  • Hannah Hudson (2015-17 Exeter) Fragments, functions and flows – the scaling of biodiversity and ecosystem services in urban ecosystems (BESS: NERC)
  • Jo Garrett (Exeter 2015-17) Research support, data analysis on biodiversity and ecosystem services (BESS: NERC; Ecolight: ERC)
  • Emma Rosenfeld (Exeter 2014-15) – Ecosystem service delivery & urban environments (SECURE: EPSRC)
  • James Duffy (Exeter 2011-14) – GIS & meta-analysis support
  • Charlie Bell (Sheffield 2011-12) – Urban River Corridors and Sustainable Living Agendas (URSULA) (EPSRC)
  • Sarah McCormack (Sheffield 2008-10) – Measurement, Modelling, Mapping and Management (4M): an evidence-based methodology for understanding and shrinking the urban carbon footprint (EPSRC)
  • Rob Holland (Sheffield 2009) – Linking biodiversity and ecosystem services: processes, priorities and prospects (NERC; Natural England)
  • Jill Edmondson (Sheffield 2008) – Measurement, Modelling, Mapping and Management (4M): an evidence-based methodology for understanding and shrinking the urban carbon footprint (EPSRC)
  • Mark Parnell (Sheffield 2007-08) – Global biodiversity hotspots: evolution, ecology and extinction (NERC)
  • Julian Vulliamy (Sheffield 2004) – The Sustainable Urban Form Consortium (EPSRC)
  • Simon Ross (Sheffield 2002) – Global biodiversity hotspots: evolution, ecology and extinction (NERC)
  • John Marçal (Sheffield 1998) – Geographic scale population dynamics, the holly leaf miner, and educating students (Leverhulme)
  • Natasha Loder (Sheffield 1993) – Mapping biodiversity