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Department of Zoology



Before starting my PhD in 2015, I read Geography at the University of Oxford, graduating in 2011. My final year dissertation examined the outcome for biodiversity of a hypothetical geoconservation network that prioritised geodiverse landscapes in the United Kingdom. I next studied for an MRes in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Research at Imperial College London, where I completed two theses, one examining the vulnerability of biodiversity hotspots to land-use change, and a second assessing the effectiveness of the UK protected area network in promoting the long-term persistence of biodiversity.


I study the structure of complex ecological networks and develop new tools to do so. My research spans three main areas: understanding the responses of ecological networks to environmental and anthropogenic pressures; disentangling the determinants of network structure; and developing cutting-edge tools for ecological network analysis. 

The effects of stressors on ecological networks

I am interested in the effects of environmental and anthropogenic stressors – such as climate change, invasive species, pollution, and habitat loss and degradation – on the structure, dynamics and functioning of ecological networks. I am also interested in how network structure influences the robustness, resilience and stability of ecological networks. I tackle these questions using a variety of topological and dynamic network models which allow for realistic perturbations to be simulated, such as species extinctions or increased environmental fluctuations.

Understanding the processing governing network structure

I am interested in uncovering the factors influencing the observed structure of ecological networks. Not only does this provide insight into how communities assemble, but can also help predict the structure of novel communities under global changes.

New tools to analyse ecological networks

I develop new software tools to analyse ecological networks. Networks are structures that are very amenable to computational and mathematical analysis, and I create tools that enable new methods or reimplement existing methods in highly efficient ways. Further information about the tools I have developed can be found on the software page.

I am funded by a NERC studentship as part of the Cambridge Earth System Science DTP. My supervisors are Professor William Sutherland and Dr Lynn Dicks. For further details on my research, please see my publications listed below.


Key publications: 



Simmons, B. I., Vizentin-Bugoni, J., Maruyama, P. K., Cotton, P. A., Marín-Gómez, O. H., Lara, C., Lasprilla, L. R., Maglianesi, M. A., Ortiz-Pulido, R., Rocca, M. A., Rodrigues, L. C., Tinoco, B., Vasconcelos, M. F., Sazima, M., Martín González, A. M., Sonne, J., Rahbek, C., Dicks, L. V., Dalsgaard, B., Sutherland, W. J. Abundance drives generalisation in hummingbird-plant pollination networks. bioRxiv. doi: 10.1101/339762


In press

Tew, E. R., Simmons B. I., Sutherland, W. J. Quantifying cultural ecosystem services: disentangling the effects of management from landscape features. People and Nature. (accepted)

Simmons, B. I., Hoeppke, C. and Sutherland W. J. Beware greedy algorithms Journal of Animal Ecology. (accepted)



Simmons, B. I., Sweering, M. J. M., Schillinger, M., Dicks, L. V., Sutherland W. J., Di Clemente, R. bmotif: a package for motif analyses of bipartite networks. Methods in Ecology and Evolution (in press)



Balmford, A., Amano, T., Bartlett, H., Chadwick, D., Collins, A., Edwards, D., Field, R., Garnsworthy, P., Green, R., Smith, P., Waters, H., Whitmore, A., Broom, D., Chara, J., Finch, T., Garnett, E., Gathorne-Hardy, A., Hernandex-Medrano, J., Herrero, M., Hua, F., Latawiec, A., Misselbrook, T., Phalan, B., Simmons, B. I., Vause, J., Ermgassen, E., Eisner, R. (2018). The environmental costs and benefits of high-yield farming. Nature Sustainability, 1, 477-485.

Simmons, B. I., Cirtwill A. R., Baker, N. J., Wauchope, H. S., Dicks, L. V., Stouffer, D. B. and Sutherland, W. J. Motifs in bipartite ecological networks: uncovering indirect interactions. Oikos, 128, 154-170.

Jucker, T., Wintle, B., Shackelford, G., Bocquillon, P., Geffert, J. L., Kasoar, T., Jovacs, E., Mumby, H. S., Orland, C., Schleicher, J., Tew, E., Zabala, A., Amano, T., Bell, A., Bongalov, B., Chambers, J. M., Corrigan, C., Durán, A. P., Duvic-Paoli, L-A., Emilson, C., da Silva, J. F., Garnett, E. E., Green, E. J., Guth, M. K., Hacket-Pain, A., Hinsley, A., Igea, J., Kunz, M., Luke, S. H., Lynam, W., Martin, P. A., Nunes, M. H., Ockendon, N., Pavitt, A., Payne, C. L. R., Plutshack, V., Rademacher, T., Robertson, R. J., Rose, D. C., Serban, A., Simmons, B. I., Szkokan-Emilson, E. J., Tayleur, C., Wordley, C. and Mukherjee, N. (2018). Ten‐year assessment of the 100 priority questions for global biodiversity conservation. Conservation Biology, 32, 1457-1463.

Rose, D. C., Sutherland, W. J., Amano, T., González‐Varo, J. P., Robertson, R. J., Simmons, B. I., Wauchope, H. S., Kovacs, E., Durán, A. P., Vadrot, A. B., Wu, W., Dias, M. P., Di Fonzo, M. M., Ivory, S., Norris, L., Nunes, M. H., Nyumba, T. O., Steiner, N., Vickery, J. and Mukherjee, N. (2018). The major barriers to evidence‐informed conservation policy and possible solutions. Conservation Letters. e12564

Simmons, B. I., Sutherland W. J., Dicks, L. V., Albrecht, J., Farwig, N., García, D., Jordano, P. and González-Varo, J. P. Moving from frugivory to seed dispersal: incorporating the functional outcomes of interactions in plant-frugivore networks. (2018). Journal of Animal Ecology, 87, 995–1007.

Dalsgaard, B., Kennedy, J., Simmons, B. I., Baquero, A., González, A. M. M., Timmermann, A., McGuire, J. A., Ollerton, J., Sutherland, W. J. and Rahbek, C. (2018). Trait evolution, nectar-feeding specialization and vulnerability to plant extinctions among hummingbirds on Antillean islands: the role of mountains and plant richness. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 285, 20172754.

Ratto, F., Simmons, B. I., Spake, R., Gutierrez, V. Z., McDonald, M., Merriman, J. C., Poppy, G. M., Peh, K. S.-H. and Dicks, L. V. (2018). Global importance of vertebrate pollinators for plant reproductive success: a meta-analysis. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 16(2), 82-90.



Rose, D. C., Mukherjee, N., Simmons, B. I., Tew, E. R., Robertson, R. J., Vadrot, A. B. M., Doubleday, R. and Sutherland, W. J. (2017) Policy windows for the environment: Tips for improving the uptake of scientific knowledge. Environmental Science and Policy. (in press)

Hudson, L. N., Newbold, T., Contu, S., Hill, S. L. L., Lysenko, I., De Palma, A., Phillips, H. R. P., Alhusseini, T. I., Bedford, F. E., Bennett, D. J., Booth, H., Burton, V. J., Chng, C. W. T., Choimes, A., Correia, D. L. P., Day, J., Echeverría-Londoño, S., Emerson, S. R., Gao, D., Garon, M., Harrison, M. L. K., Ingram, D. J., Jung, M., Kemp, V., Kirkpatrick, L., Martin, C. D., Pan, Y., Pask-Hale, G. D., Pynegar, E. L., Robinson A. N., Sanchez-Ortiz, K., Senior, R. A., Simmons, B. I. et al. (2017). The database of the PREDICTS (Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial Systems) Project. Ecology and Evolution, 7, 145-188.



Newbold, T., Hudson, L. N., Arnell, A. P., Contu, S., De Palma, A., Ferrier, S., Hill, S. L. L., Hoskins, A. J., Lysenko, I., Phillips, H. R. P., Burton, V. J., Chng, C. W. T., Emerson, S., Gao, D., Pask-Hale, G., Hutton, J., Jung, M., Sanchez-Ortiz, K., Simmons, B. I., Whitmee, S., Zhang, H., Scharlemann, J. P. W., Purvis, A. (2016). Has land use pushed terrestrial biodiversity beyond the planetary boundary? A global assessment. Science, 353(6296), pp. 288-291.

Gray, C. L.*, Simmons, B. I.*, Fayle, T. M., Mann, D. J. and Slade, E. M. (2016). Are riparian forest reserves sources of invertebrate biodiversity spillover and associated ecosystem functions in oil palm landscapes? Biological Conservation, 194, 176-183. * Joint first authors