Dr Helen Wheeler

Senior Lecturer

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 and ecosystem ecologist, focussed on northern, alpine and arctic environments and restoration of ecosystems. Her research is interdisciplinary, exploring both ecological and social aspects of wildlife and ecosystem change. She leads ARU's Wildlife Change in the Arctic project.


View Helen's Google Scholar profile

View Helen's ResearchGate profile


Helen joined ARU 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 and ecosystem change in complex systems and monitoring for effective stewardship.

In the Arctic, 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 distributions 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 the causes and consequences wildlife and ecosystem change. Elsewhere, her research focuses on ecological and social impacts of minimal intervention restoration and the evidence base for different restoration approaches.

Research interests

  • Impacts of climate change on wildlife and ecosystems
  • Impacts of climate-induced species distribution change
  • Incorporating multiple knowledge systems into wildlife observation
  • Restoration and rewilding: ecological and social impacts
  • Nature-based solutions
  • Gaps and biases in large scale ecological monitoring and synthesis

Helen is a member of both our Applied Ecology Research Group and Behavioural Ecology Research Group.

Areas of research supervision

Helen welcomes enquiries from prospective research students in the areas of her research interests and expertise. She is currently looking to her expand her group and welcomes interest from postdocs who wish to apply for external fellowships. We also occasionally take on volunteers, please enquire if interested.

Helen is currently recruiting for a PhD student for a project entitled Where Have All The Hares Gone? Understanding Species Decline and to Support Species Recovery in Complex Multistakeholder Systems.

Find out more about our Biology PhD and take a look at our exciting PhD project opportunities.


Helen teaches on the following courses:

Masters module leadership:

  • Current Topics in Wildlife Conservation
  • Understanding Biodiversity and Sustainability

Undergraduate module leadership:

  • Population Ecology and Wildlife Management


  • 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

  • IASC cross-cutting workshop fund EUR€12750
  • Wildlife Studies Fund, Gwich’in Renewable Resources Board, CADS17277, 2021
  • UK-Canada Arctic Partnership Bursary, GBP£17530, 2020
  • On the Land Programme (CoI with Gwich’in Renewable Resources Board (PI) and Environment Canada (CoI)) CAD$30000, 2020
  • 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

Wheeler, H. C, Danielsen, F., Fidel, M., Hausner, V. H., Horstkotte, T., Johnson, N, Lee, O, Mukherjee, N., Amos, A., Ashtorn, H., Ballari, Ø., Behe, C. Breton., Honeyman, K., Retter, G.-B., Buschman, V., Jakobsen, P. Johnson, F., Lyberth, B., Parrott, J. A., Pogodaev, M., Sulyandziga, R., Vronski, N., 2020. The need for transformative changes in the use of Indigenous knowledge along with science for environmental decision-making in the Arctic. People and Nature, 2, pp. 554-55.

Wheeler, H. C., Root-Bernstein, M., 2020. Informing decision making with Indigenous and local knowledge and science. Journal of Applied Ecology, 57, pp. 1634-1643.

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. doi: 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, 33(4), pp. 861-872. doi: 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, February 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, October 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, September 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, October 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, September 2015.

Scientific Meetings:

Ecology Across Borders: Joint Annual Meeting Ghent, Belgium, December 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, Northern Ireland, August 2013.

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