Applied Ecology Research Group

woman taking notes sitting on a rock surrounded by the sea

Our Applied Ecology Research Group (AERG) undertakes world class research to understand and provide innovative solutions to a myriad of urgent and complex global issues facing natural ecosystems.

The primary focus of the AERG is to assess, understand and mitigate anthropogenic impacts such as plastic pollution, climate change, invasive species, agriculture and urbanisation, on biodiversity and ecosystem services in terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems. Our cutting edge research uses a range of modern tools, including ecological network analysis, ecosystem modelling, satellite tracking and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) along with interdisciplinary techniques, for example, combining the disciplines of biology and ecology with molecular biology, biogeochemistry and microbiology. Our research is used to engage and educate the general public and to enhance decision-making for natural resource management and sustainable development.

Some of our research goals align with those of the Behavioural Ecology Research Group and the Global Sustainability Institute (GSI) promoting a good intellectual environment rich with collaborative opportunity. Members of our group include academics, postgraduate researchers and professional staff.

We welcome collaboration and enquiries from potential incoming Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellows under the European Union's new Horizon 2020 programme.

We offer our Biology PhD, and have identified a range of innovative research project opportunities for postgraduate researchers.


PhD researchers
Technical staff
  • Julia Mackenzie
  • Jackie Bodimead


New study shows cigarette butts hamper plant growth

Funding awarded for collaborative project in School of Life Sciences

At the forefront of EU Pollinator Policy

A study led by Dr Peter Brown highlights the dominance of the invasive harlequin ladybird and involved taking recordings at four sites across East Anglia, nine times a year over an 11-year period from 2006-2016. The study shows an alarming decline of native ladybirds in the UK. The research was published in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversity, 2017, and is referenced below under key publications.

Dr Olivia Norfolk led a new study that was recently published in the journal Diversity and Distributions, 2018, and is referenced below under key publications. It indicates introduced ‘alien’ honeybees are competing for resources with native bees and threatening the survival of plants that rely on interactions with specific pollinators. Read the full news article entitled 'Alien honeybees could cause plant extinction'. 2018. 

Dr Dannielle Green has shown the wider impact of microplastics in her research indicating that even small concentrations of plastic, such as microbeads found in toothpaste, cosmetics and household cleaning products, can have a serious impact on entire marine habitats. Dannielle's research was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, 2017, and is referenced below under key publications.

Research led by Dr Olivia Norfolk shows that coffee and timber plantations are providing a safety net for butterfly species in Ethiopia, as the country’s tropical forests are being destroyed at an alarming rate. The study has been published in Biotropica, the journal of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, and is referenced below under key publications. Read the full article 'How butterflies benefit from coffee corridors'. 2017.

Key publications

Brown, P. and Roy, H.E., 2017. Native ladybird decline caused by the invasive harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis: evidence from a long‐term field study. Insect Conservation and Diversity, 11, pp.230-239.

Green, D.S., Christie, H., Pratt, N., Boots, B., Godbold, J., Solan, M. and Hauton, C. 2017. Competitive interactions moderate the effects of elevated temperature and atmospheric CO2 on the health and functioning of oysters. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 582, pp.93-103.

Green, D., Boots, B., O'Connor, N. and Thompson, R. 2017. Microplastics affect the ecological functioning of an important biogenic habitat. Environmental Science and Technology, 51(1), pp.68-77.

Mowles, S.L., Jennions, M. and Backwell, PRY., 2017. Multimodal communication in courting fiddler crabs reveals male performance capacities. Royal Society Open Science, 3(4).

Norfolk, O., Gilbert, F. and Eichhorn, M.P., 2018. Alien honeybees increase pollination risks for range‐restricted plants. Diversity and Distributions, 24, pp.705–713.

Norfolk, O., Asale, A., Temesgen, T., Denu, D., Platts, PJ., Marchant, R. and Yewhalaw, D., 2017. Diversity and composition of tropical butterflies along an Afromontane agricultural gradient in the Jimma Highlands, Ethiopia. Biotropica, 3(49), pp.346-354.