Dr Helen Wheeler


Faculty:Faculty of Science and Engineering

School:Life Sciences

Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: Animal and environmental biology

Research Supervision:Yes

Helen is a wildlife ecologist, focussed on vertebrate systems in northern, alpine and Arctic environments. Her research is interdisciplinary, exploring both ecological and social aspects of wildlife change.

Google scholar profile
ResearchGate profile


Helen joined Anglia Ruskin University in January 2018 as a Lecturer in Zoology. From 2012-2017 she conducted postdoctoral research at University of Tromsø, Norway, University of Quebec in Rimouski, Canada, Centre of Functional and Evolutionary Ecology, National Centre for Scientific Research, France and Aarhus University in Denmark. Prior to this, she was a PhD student at University of Alberta in Canada.

Her research focusses on wildlife change in complex systems and monitoring for effective stewardship. She studies direct and indirect consequences of changing climate on wildlife in the Arctic. She works to understand how rapid climatic, ecological and socio-economic change in the Arctic affect wildlife behaviour, population ecology, spatial distribution and interactions between species. Her research is increasingly socio-ecological, including studying how different types of knowledge and information such as Traditional knowledge and scientific knowledge can contribute to our understanding of wildlife change.

Research interests

  • Gaps in large scale ecological monitoring
  • Impacts of arctic vegetation change on wildlife (in particular shrubification)
  • Complex responses to phenological change
  • Incorporating multiple knowledge systems in to wildlife observation

Helen is a member of both our Applied Ecology Research Group and Behavioural Ecology Research Group. Her current research focuses heavily on evaluating gaps in monitoring across social and ecological drivers of change in large scale monitoring networks in the Arctic. Helen's interests are in both creating tools to rigorously assess bias in coverage and representation and evaluating the consequences of those biases. In addition, she has ongoing research on the ecological consequences of arctic vegetation change (shrubification), particularly with respect to wildlife and she's particularly interested in developing projects that help to incorporate multiple knowledge systems (including Indigenous knowledge) in to wildlife observation and decision-making.

Areas of research supervision

Helen welcomes enquiries from prospective research students in the areas of her research interests and expertise.

Find out more about our Biology PhD including our exciting PhD project opportunities.


  • PhD in Ecology, University of Alberta, Canada
  • MRes in Ecology and Environmental Management, University of York, UK
  • BA Natural Sciences (Zoology), University of Cambridge, UK

Memberships, editorial boards

  • Journal of Applied Ecology, Associate Editor Mentee
  • British Ecological Society, Member
  • Reviewing (publications and grants): Oecologia, Canadian Journal of Zoology, Mammalian Biology, Journal of Mammalogy, Journal of Biogeography, PLOS One, National Science Foundation (US)

Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange

  • UK-Canada Arctic Partnership Bursary, GBP£19710, 2019
  • Murie Science and Learning Fellowship, USD$4000, 2013
  • Alberta Ingenuity Studentship, CAD$27500p.a. 2009-2011
  • Canadian Circumpolar Institute Grant Awards, CAD$2500-$4000p.a. 2008-2011
  • Leverhulme Trust Study Abroad Studentship, GBP£18000p.a. 2007-2008
  • Mammals Trust UK Internship, GBP£4000

Selected recent publications

Perino, A., Pereira, H. M., Navarro, L. M., Fernández, N., Bullock, J. M., Ceaușu, S., Cortés-Avizanda, A., van Klink, R., Kuemmerle, T., Lomba, A., Pe'er, G., Plieninger, T. Rey Benayas, J. M., Sandom, C., Svenning, J.-C.,Wheeler, H. C. (2019).Rewilding complex ecosystems. Science, 364(6438): eaav5570. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aav5570

Wheeler, H. C., Berteaux, D., Furgal, C., Cazelles, K., Yoccoz, N. G., & Grémillet, D. (2018). Identifying key needs for the integration of social–ecological outcomes in arctic wildlife monitoring. Conservation Biology. In press https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.13257

Wheeler, H. C., Høye, T. T. & Svenning, J.-C., 2018. Wildlife species benefitting from a greener Arctic are most sensitive to shrub cover at leading range edges. Global Change Biology, 24, pp.212-223. doi:10.1111/gcb.13837

Wheeler, H. C., Berteaux, D., Furgal, C., Parlee, B., Yoccoz, N. G. & Grémillet, D., 2016. Stakeholder perspectives on triage in wildlife monitoring in a rapidly changing arctic. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 128(4). doi: 10.3389/fevo.2016.00128

Wheeler, H. C., Høye, T. T., Martin-Schmidt, N., Svenning, J. C. & Forchammer, M. C., 2015. Phenological mismatch with abiotic conditions - implications for flowering in Arctic plants. Ecology, 26, pp.775-787.

Wheeler, H. C., Chipperfield, J., Roland, C. & Svenning, J. C., 2015. How will the greening of the Arctic affect a common ecosystem engineer? Vegetation effects on arctic ground squirrels. Oecologia, 178, pp.915-929.

Wheeler, H. C. & Hik, D. S., 2014. Giving up densities and foraging behaviour indicate possible effects of shrub encroachment on arctic ground squirrels. Animal Behaviour, 95, pp.1-8.

Wheeler, H. C. & Hik, D. S., 2014. Influence of shrub canopies on growth rate and pre-hibernation mass of juvenile arctic ground squirrels. Wildlife Biology, 20, pp.253-258.

Wheeler, H. C. & Hik, D. S., 2013. Arctic ground squirrels as a driver and indicator of northern ecosystem change. Mammal Review, 43, pp.238-255.

Sheriff, M. J., Wheeler, H., Donker, S. A., Krebs, C. J., Palme, R., Hik, D. S. & Boonstra, R., 2012. Mountain-top and valley-bottom experiences: the stress axis as an integrator of environmental variability in arctic ground squirrel populations. Journal of Zoology, 287, pp.65-75.

Thompson, P. M. & Wheeler, H. C., 2008. Photo-ID based estimates of reproductive patterns in female harbour seals. Marine Mammal Science, 24, pp.138-146.

Recent presentations and conferences

Invited seminars:

Stakeholder needs for arctic seabird monitoring and pan arctic monitoring gaps. Durham University, UK, Feb. 2019 Research needs on arctic biology and biodiversity. Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme/EU PolarNet Stakeholder Workshop on Research Needs on Arctic ecosystems, Rovaniemi, Sweden, Oct. 2018. Invited speaker and panel member Stakeholder needs for pan-arctic wildlife monitoring. Swiss Polar Institute, High Altitudes meets High Latitude: Globalising Polar Issues Conference, Crans Montana, Switzerland, Sept. 2017.


Arctic Council Working groups and Expert Network participation (Policy-related meetings):
Monitoring of seabirds and terrestrial vertebrates: Needs and perceptions. Arctic Council CAFF Terrestrial Ecosystem Group Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program meeting, Sweden, April 2016.

How well does monitoring of wildlife meet the needs of stakeholders? CBird (Arctic Council CAFF Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program expert network) meeting, South Africa, Oct. 2015.

How well does monitoring of wildlife meet the needs of stakeholders? Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) Arctic Council working group meeting, Norway, Sept 2015.

Scientific Meetings:
Ecology Across Borders: Joint Annual Meeting Ghent, Belgium, Dec. 2017.

Assessing the implications of shrubification for arctic ground squirrels at multiple scales. Rodens et Spatium Conference, Portugal, July 2014.

Population, individual and behavioural approaches to understanding the implications of habitat change for arctic ground squirrels. International Mammalogical Congress, N. Ireland, Aug. 2013.

Implications of shrub encroachment for arctic ground squirrels. British Ecological Society Annual Meeting, Sheffield, UK, Sept. 2011.

Variation in Arctic ground squirrel populations across an alpine tundra ecotone: Investigating the effects of shrubs and habitat visibility. Population biology symposium, Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution Annual Conference, Banff, Alberta, May 2011.

Investigating potential impacts of shrub encroachment on Arctic ground squirrel behaviour and density. Understanding Circumpolar Ecosystems in a Changing World – Beyond outcomes of the International Polar Year Conference, Edmonton, Alberta, Nov. 2010.

Media experience

Plants Duke It Out in a Warming Arctic, BioScience, 62(2), pp.220, 2015.

Young Einsteins: How groundbreaking research at Kluane Lake Research Station is drawing talented young minds from all over the world, Yukon, 3(4), pp.37-29, 2009.