Insect Ecology Group
My biological interests stem from a fascination with the incredible diversity of species we see around us. To a rough approximation, biodiversity in the animal kingdom equals insects, with the highest diversity existing in the tropics. Research for my PhD focuses on biodiversity and ecosystem function in South-East Asian rainforests, with fieldwork based in Malaysian Borneo, and back in the UK at Cambridge and the Natural History Museum, London.
As an aside, I am currently combining my entomological interests with my work as a circus performer, by researching the history and techniques of the once-popular fairground attraction, the flea circus.
The importance of rainforests and their associated biodiversity to agriculture.
Natural habitats can have wider value to agriculture than simply as potential sites for conversion to farmland. Ecosystem functions provided by nature can confer many irreplaceable direct or indirect benefits on human populations.
The tropical crop oil palm (Elaeis guineensis Jacqin) is a major source of the world’s oils and fats. With demand ever-increasing, not least due to the potential of oil palm as a source of biofuel, the pressure on natural ecosystems in areas of potential oil-palm production has never been greater. South-East Asia, as the major source of the world’s palm oil, shows acute examples of this pressure, as its highly biodiverse rainforests become increasingly under threat from conversion to oil palm.
My research focuses on the ecological and economic value of fragments of rainforest in proximity to oil-palm plantations. Concentrating on the hymenopteran parasitoids of the lepidopteran pests of oil palm, I am describing the biodiversity of these areas, and the importance of the ecosystem services that may be provided to plantations by the forest.