Research interests & skills

View my CV

I am an ecologist and conservationist, with a strong interest in the responses of organisms (at individual, population and community levels) to anthropogenic changes in the biotic and abiotic components of their environment. I am keen to apply my skills in field-sampling insects and interspecific interactions, and the complex analysis of large-scale and long-term datasets, to the study of biodiversity change on a rapidly-changing planet. My previous research has ranged from analysis of community dynamics over periods of years or decades, to detailed single-species experimental and field studies. I am passionate about finding solutions that will allow species, and biodiversity as a whole, to thrive on the Anthropocene Earth.

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, and has since been published in Journal of Insect 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). My PhD thesis was selected by the Royal Entomological Society to be the 2017 recipient of the Alfred Russel Wallace Award.

For my first postdoc, I spent nearly three years in the lab of Jane Hill and Chris Thomas (University of York), where I investigated the evolutionary, ecological and plastic responses of British Lepidoptera to the effects of climate change as 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. Alongside this work, I studied the trends and drivers of biomass change in British moths, to establish the evidence for an ongoing “insectageddon”.

I am now based at the Energy and Environment Institute, University of Hull, where I am working with Will Mayes, Jane Bunting and Pauline Deutz, on the THYME project overseen by Dan Parsons. I am researching the potential costs and benefits to biodiversity of proposals to repurpose brownfield sites for agricultural use in the bioeconomy.

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.
  • Bird identification, including by song: have participated in the Breeding Bird Survey.
  • Amateur expertise in identifying a range of other groups (insects, mammals, herptiles, plants).
  • Captive breeding of Lepidoptera.
  • Bioassays: use of phytometers to measure effects on pollination.
  • Collection & analysis of environmental metadata.
  • 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 & long-term data sets; GLMMs and GAMs with Bayesian model selection; diversity and community composition using Vegan; ecological networks using bipartite; analysis of spatial data.
  • Bioinformatics using Linux and Python; analysis of NGS sequence data.

Other skills

  • Holder of a full, clean British driving licence and Member of IAM RoadSmart (formerly known as the Institute of Advanced Motorists).

Academic citizenship

Science for conservation and policy

  • BA dissertation related to conservation strategy for rare Striped Lychnis moth Cucullia lychnitis.
  • Article for LED Professional Review (issue 75, Sept/Oct 2019) reviewing latest research on ecological responses to new street lighting technologies, aimed to engage industry professionals and stakeholders.

Scientific engagement

  • My first-author review paper, Macgregor et al. 2015, was:
    • named Best Paper in Ecological Entomology for 2014-15.
    • 3rd highest Altmetric of all time in Ecological Entomology (last checked 26th September 2019; formerly highest of all time 2015-2018).
      • Top 1% of all papers tracked by Altmetric (last checked 26th September 2019).
  • My first-author research papers in Ecological Entomology, Global Change BiologyFunctional Ecology and Ecosphere have been:
    • Featured in national newspapers in the UK and on Canadian national radio (listen here).
    • Top 50 Altmetrics of all time in their respective journals (last checked 26th September 2019).
      • Top 2% of all papers tracked by Altmetric (last checked 26th September 2019).
  • I was named runner-up for the Anne Keymer Prize for Best Student Talk at the BES Annual Meeting 2015 in Edinburgh and winner for Best Student Talk at the RES PG Forum 2017 in Sheffield.
  • Active participant in scientific peer reviewview my Publons profile.

Administration

  • Current member, British Ecological Society Publications Committee (which has responsibility for BES publishing strategy including management of its suite of journals).
  • Chair of Postgraduate Committee, University of Hull School of Biological, Biomedical and Environmental Sciences, 2013-15 (twice organized annual Postgraduate Research Day conference).

Public engagement

  • My articles for The Conversation have been republished by, among others, The Guardian and IFLScience, accruing over 100,000 reads to date (23rd July 2019).
  • I have also written about my research for members’ magazines Bird Table (BTO) and Butterfly (Butterfly Conservation).
  • I am a species writer for Butterfly Conservation Yorkshire‘s excellent Annual Report, providing an annual summary of Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus records across the five vice-counties of Yorkshire.
  • 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).
  • Invited guest speaker, events including:
    • British Entomological and Natural History Society AGM 2019, Oxford.
    • Butterfly Conservation 50th Anniversary AGM 2018, Nottingham.
  • Seminar presented as part of Mayo International Dark Sky Park’s Dark Sky Week 2017, Ballycroy, Co Mayo, Ireland.
  • Evening seminars presented to Hull Natural History Society and Natural History Society of Northumbria.

Teaching

I have gained experience of teaching through a range of opportunities:

  • Passed the “Postgraduate Researchers’ Introduction to Teaching” course (University of Hull, 2015), and attended a Small-group Teaching Workshop (University of York, 2017).
  • Supervision
    • Lead supervisor to an undergraduate student for a successful 10-week research project in summer 2018, leading to ultimate submission of a manuscript to a journal.
    • Co-supervisor to two Masters projects in 2018-19, one of which resulted in publication in a high-impact journal.
    • Recruited and supervised undergraduate and Masters students as research assistants on my own research projects.
  • Lecturing
    • Guest Lecturer, MSc Entomology, Harper Adams University (2019): delivered a lecture and practical on ecological network analysis.
    • Delivered a seminar on my career in research to first-year undergraduates at Newcastle University (2016).
  • Tutorials
    • Designed and delivered a series of six small-group tutorials for second-year undergraduates in autumn 2017 and autumn 2018, and a series of eight tutorials in spring 2019.
  • Practicals
    • As a PhD student, I demonstrated on courses including laboratory practicals, field courses (designed and led a practical exercise on floral diversity), and computer-based courses on statistics.
  • Other