Research interests & skills

View my CV

I am an entomologist and ecologist, with a strong interest in the evolutionary ecology of organisms, in relation to both the abiotic factors impacting them and their biotic interactions with other species. I am keen to apply my skills in sampling insects and detecting interspecific interactions (including by the use of novel DNA-based methods) to the study of ecological networks. I am interested in how networks are altered by environmental change, and the coevolution of the interacting organisms that they comprise. Although most of my research to date has focussed on Lepidoptera, I also have experience of surveying other insects and birds.

My earliest experience of research was participating in the BTO’s Breeding Bird Survey at the marvellous Paxton Pits Nature Reserve, later monitoring the impact of trial rabbit-exclusions in blackthorn scrub on the reserve’s breeding passerines.

Since then, I have focussed more upon Lepidoptera. My undergraduate honours project, entitled “Factors affecting the distribution and abundance of a rare British moth, Shargacucullia lychnitis“, investigated the impact of a range of ecological variables upon life-history traits of a range-restricted moth species. I identified both biotic and abiotic factors with a significant effect upon the moth’s distribution in a patchy landscape and its success within patches of varying size and quality. The project was conducted under the supervision of Owen Lewis at the University of Oxford and Dan Hoare and Mark Parsons from the charity Butterfly Conservation.

My PhD project, supervised by Darren Evans (Newcastle University), Michael Pocock (CEH), and Richard Fox (Butterfly Conservation), utilized a variety of field- and lab-based methods (some of which are described below) to investigate the importance of moths as pollinators and the effects of artificial light at night upon these nocturnal interactions. I submitted my thesis in March 2017 and passed my viva in June, with thanks to my examiners Jason Tylianakis (University of Canterbury, New Zealand/Imperial College London) and Roy Sanderson (Newcastle University).

I have recently taken up a postdoctoral position in the lab of Jane Hill and Chris Thomas (University of York), where I am investigating the evolutionary, epigenetic and plastic responses of British Lepidoptera to the effects of climate change. This project is part of a collaboration with the labs of Ilik Saccheri (University of Liverpool) and Jon Bridle (University of Bristol), along with a number of project partners.

My skills

I have developed a number of skills over my research career to date, that could be applied to future projects:

Fieldwork

  • Field-sampling insects: light-trapping and transect sampling of moths, butterflies and others
  • Bioassays: use of phytometers to measure effects on pollination
  • Bird identification, including by song: have participated in the Breeding Bird Survey
  • Working in at-risk situations, including lone working, night working, road verges
  • Maintenance of field equipment, including electrical items and generators, and manual handling

Labwork

  • DNA metabarcoding, including extraction, PCR, and sequencing using Illumina MiSeq
  • Sampling pollen using fuchsin gel swabbing and identification of pollen using light microscopy

Analysis

  • Statistical analysis in R; analysing large data sets; GLMMs; diversity and community composition using Vegan; ecological networks using bipartite.
  • Bioinformatics using Linux and Python; analysis of NGS sequence data

Scientific engagement

  • My first-author review paper, Macgregor et al. 2015, was:
    • named Best Paper in Ecological Entomology for 2014-15
    • highest Altmetric of all time in Ecological Entomology (last checked 18th December 2016)
      • Top 0.5% of all papers tracked by Altmetric (last checked 18th December 2016)
  • My first-author research paper, Macgregor et al. 2016, was:
    • Featured in national newspapers in the UK and on Canadian national radio (listen here)
    • 13th highest Altmetric of all time in Global Change Biology (last checked 18th December 2016)
      • Top 0.5% of all papers tracked by Altmetric (last checked 18th December 2016)
  • I was named runner-up for the Anne Keymer Prize for Best Student Talk at the BES Annual Meeting 2015 in Edinburgh
  • Active participant in scientific peer reviewview my Publons profile

Public engagement

  • My articles for The Conversation have been republished by, among others, The Guardian and IFLScience, accruing over 80,000 reads to date (13th July 2016).
  • I have been a guest on BBC Radio 5Live‘s Hit List, talking about Silver Y moths (listen here)
  • I have been interviewed for BBC1’s Countryfile Autumn Diaries, talking about the effects of street lights on moths and pollination (audio here, or contact me for video)

Other skills

  • Holder of a full, clean British driving licence and Member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists
  • Proven ability to work in different environments and groups
    • Moved three times during PhD:
    • University of Hull ⇒ CEH ⇒ University of Hull ⇒ Newcastle University
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