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Department of Zoology

 

Biography

I am a research assistant working at the University Museum of Zoology, investigating the habitat requirements of endangered insects in the UK. I graduated with a BSc in Natural Sciences from Durham University in 2015 and completed an MPhil in Zoology at Cambridge in 2017.

I constructed my undergraduate degree programme around my key areas of interest and undertook modules from several different departments focused on the themes of conservation, ecology and behaviour. During my final year at Durham I was given the chance to develop my long-held fascination with insects and wrote a literature review on the Large Blue butterfly, Phengaris (Maculinea) arion, looking at reasons for its original extinction and the success of its subsequent reintroduction to the UK.

After finishing my undergraduate degree, I then began researching the ecology and habitat requirements of another British Butterfly, the Duke of Burgundy, as part of the Cambridge University Zoology Department’s Insect Ecology Group. Working with the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust throughout this project enabled my work to directly inform invertebrate management on reserves in the UK.

Upon completing my Masters course, I started working at the University Museum of Zoology, studying historical insect specimens. For the past year I have been the lead researcher of The Jenyns Beetle Voyage Project. The aim of this project was to catalogue, for the first time, part of the extensive insect collection held in the Museum store rooms, focussing on material collected by the famous naturalist Leonard Jenyns. In doing so, we gained information on how habitats and species have changed over the last few hundred years and made this data more accessible to a wider audience. This information has been passed to local conservation organisations to help guide them in their conservation efforts today. Following on from this I have now started a new project called ‘Butterflies through time’, financed by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund. The project will engage people with the natural world and environmental change, both past and present, by linking historical collections with contemporary conservation initiatives.

Over two years we aim to:

1)    Use records of long-term declines in local wildlife, stored within museum collections, to engage new audiences with museums and the natural world.
2)    Use historical museum data to guide habitat restoration work on reserves in collaboration with local conservation organisations, such as the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust (BCNWT).
3)    Catalogue and digitise the Museum’s UK butterfly collection, making these records widely accessible for the first time.

Research

I am interested in studying the ecology, behaviour and habitat requirements of invertebrates in the UK so that appropriate management can be implemented to maintain biodiversity on our fragmented reserves. More recently I have specifically been looking at historical museum specimens, investigating how losses from the past can help guide conservation of the future. Invertebrates are an important food base for a wide range of animals and they provide essential ecosystem services such as pollination and improved soil fertility. However, they can often be overlooked as conservation tends to focus on larger and supposedly more 'charismatic' species. The recent publicity about the widespread, rapid decline of insects highlights the need to research and better understand the challenges facing these animals.

Publications

Key publications: 

Hayes MP (2015) The biology and ecology of the large blue butterfly Phengaris (Maculinea) arion: a review. Journal of Insect Conservation 19:1037-1051.

Hayes MP, Hitchcock GE, Knock RI, Lucas CBH, Chaney PK, Rhodes MW, Turner EC (2018) Determining the long-term habitat preferences of the Duke of Burgundy butterfly, Hamearis lucina, on a chalk grassland reserve in the UK. Journal of Insect Conservation 22(2): 329 -343.

Hayes MP, Hitchcock GE, Knock RI, Lucas CBH, Turner EC (2019) Temperature and territoriality in the Duke of Burgundy butterfly, Hamearis lucina. Journal of Insect Conservation 23(4): 739–750.

Research Assistant