James is a quantitative ecologist with expertise in entomology. He is an expert in hemipteran vectors that transmit plant disease and co-convenes the Royal Entomological Society’s Hemiptera Special Interest Group (SIG) with Tom Pope at Harper-Adams. James researches the beneficial insects that deliver important ecosystem services to agriculture, especially concerning pest control and looks more widely at natural systems in his NERC funded project Drivers and Repercussions of UK Insect Declines. His research spans agricultural pests all the way to topics in insect conservation in natural systems, providing a balanced insight into how terrestrial ecosystems should be managed in a sustainable world. For example, James has recently collaborated with the RSPB and BTO to deliver a new understanding of swift and swallow trends and their relationship with flying insect biomass and, is also an Associate Editor for the Wiley journal Insect Conservation & Diversity. James regularly communicates his science to policy-makers, and a wide range of other audiences and stakeholders as well as the academic community.

Please get in touch if you want to know more.

Research and scholarship

My research interest in pest management and vector-borne pathogens is largely focused on aphids as vectors of a complex of three viruses transmitted to sugar beet. For example, I lead a high-profile virus yellows modelling project that directly informed Defra’s derogation decision making for the use of neonicotinoid insecticide-coated seed in sugar beet. I also recently led a BBSRC project titled Ecologically Engineering a Sustainable Sugar Beet Landscape that is took a forward look at sugar beet and considered restructuring the farmscape to reduce virus transmission whilst promoting a more nature-based agriculture.

Recent Awards

2024-27 BBRO: Supporting new IPM decisions using the virus yellows model (StatBeet).
£500,00. Joint PI with Andrew Mead (Rothamsted)

2023 BBSRC “Rothamsted Insect Survey NBRI” (BBS/E/RH/23NB0006) £2.2m PI

2022-23 BBSRC Impact Acceleration Account – “Sugar Beet KE”, Rothamsted Research.
(BB/X511201/1) £10,990 PI

2022-23 BBSRC “Ecologically Engineering a Sustainable Sugar Beet Landscape”
(BB/X005313/1) £118,019. PI

2021-2025 NERC “Drivers and Repercussions of UK Insect Declines (DRUID)” (NE/V00686X/1).
£503,641. PI.

2019-23 BBRO “A Comprehensive Sugar Beet Virus Yellows Model.” £262,218. PI.
2019-21 AHDB: “Aphid News” £151,960. PI

2018-20 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Smart Armyworm Surveillance.” (OPP1199447)
£72k. PI.

2018-19 BBRO “Fast-tracked surveillance data on the peach-potato aphid: vector forecasting,
virus yellows and insecticide resistance.” £60K. PI.

2017-20 BBSRC-ICRF (Institute Strategic Programme - Rothamsted Research). “Smart Crop
Protection.” (BBS/OS/CP/000001) £6.9m; Co-I and Leader Work Package 1.

2017-2022 BBSRC “The Rothamsted Insect Survey - National Capability” (BBS/E/C/000J0200)
£1.8m PI.

Measures of Esteem

2024 'Hemiptera', Special Interest Group, Royal Entomological Society, Joint Convener with
Tom Pope at Harper Adams University

2024 Visiting Scientist, Rothamsted Research.

2024 Professor of Entomology, Life Sciences, Keele University.

2023 Keynotes at European Congress of Entomology & RES Sustainable Agriculture SIG

2015- 2023 Head of the Rothamsted Insect Survey, a BBSRC National Capability and NBRI.

2023 Presentation of the Evidence to Parliamentary Science, Innovation and Technology
Select Committee: Insect Declines and Food Security, chaired by Greg Clark MP.

2022 Invited to Showcase ‘World-class Ideas’ at NERC Strategic Delivery Plan Launch Event
at the Royal Society.

2022 Associate Editor: Insect Conservation & Diversity

2021-23 Annual Consultation with Defra: Forecasting Virus Yellows and the Derogation to
Evaluate the Use of Neonicotinoids in Sugar Beet.

2019 Presentation of the Evidence of Insect Declines to MPs, chaired by Baroness Young.
Parliamentary Office of Science & Technology.

2019 Invited Speaker: Net Zero by 2050: A Policy Response. Bim Afolami MP


Royal Entomological Society

British Ecological Society

British Trust for Ornithology

Further information

A full publication list can be found on Google Scholar



I trained as an ecologist and have committed my career to insect ecology and conservation. Insects do not exist in isolation; I have expertise in a much broader field ecology and natural history that includes plants, mammals, birds and ecosystems more generally. My PhD students are an excellent example of the breath of understanding needed to manage ecosystems. I have supervised 11 PhD studentships that have wide science breadth beyond entomology alone.

Recent PhD Studentships

SWBio DTP 2023-2027: Understanding the roles of behavioural ecology, genes, plant hosts and fuel for flight to predict the migratory range of aphids. Academic supervisor with Chris Bass and Catherine Bradshaw at Exeter, the Met Office's Debbie Hemming and Alice Milne, Jana Friedrich, Liz Dixon at Rothamsted. Student: Jen Thomas

Envision DTP 2023-2027: Reclaiming the night sky for moths: what drives the flight-to-light response and how can this be mitigated. Academic supervisor with Tom Reader and Ed Morris at Nottingham along with Kirsty Hassall and Chris Shortall at Rothamsted. Student: Elliott Cornelius

SWBio DTP 2021-2025: Long-term changes in the abundance and phenology of migrating insects as potential drivers of population change in insectivorous birds and bats. Academic supervisor with Gareth Jones and Andy Wakefield at Bristol, along with Kirsty Hassall and Dion Garrett at Rothamsted, the BTO's Stuart Newson and BCT's Lia Gilmour. Student: Hannah Romanowski

SWBio DTP 2019- 2023: Flight-to-Light and the Decline in British Moths. Academic supervisor with Kevin Gaston and Jon Bennie at Exeter along with Chris Shortall at Rothamsted. Student: Ishbel Hayes

If you are interested in understanding and measuring ecological impacts, why not get in contact. Also, you might like to also take a look at our book on the subject.

C. Philip Wheater, Penny A. Cook, James R. Bell (2020) Practical Field Ecology. John Wiley & Sons, 2nd edition 480 page

School of Life Sciences,
Huxley Building,
Keele University,
Tel: +44 (0) 1782 734414