Applied and Behavioural Ecology

Applied and Behavioural Ecology

Our research includes:

  • Animal communication, e.g. pheromone communication systems of parasitoid wasps and the acoustic and motion signalling systems of crickets and cockroaches. 
  • Use of novel physiological and analytical techniques such as real-time mass-spectroscopy. 
  • Evolution of sex ratios and social behaviours, from parasitoids to humans.
  • Modelling gene regulatory responses of microorganisms to environmental stress, e.g. metals and antibiotics.
  • Model-driven statistical analysis of molecular technologies from bioluminescence to high-throughput phenotype arrays.
  • Evaluation (sustainability, ecotoxicology and efficacy) of established and novel wastes derived from sustainable energy systems. 
  • Persistence and ecological effects of veterinary pharmaceuticals in manures and soil.

Applied and Behavioural Ecolgy


A CT X-ray image of a mummified host caterpillar full of Copidosoma wasps near to emergence. © S. Mowles & C. Sturrock

Key aims and expertise

Our research spans a wide range of topics in applied ecology, especially the evolution of behavioural strategies in many organisms, from microbes to insects to eagles. This multi-disciplinary research uses a wide array of techniques (e.g. field studies, laboratory experimentation, chemical analysis, mathematical and computer modelling, frequentist and Bayesian statistics) and spans gene regulation, cellular processes, immunity, metabolomics, physiology, behaviour, evolution and ecology. There are many applications, especially to global food security through pest and pathogen management and understanding agronomic and toxicological consequences of using wastes as fertilisers, particularly those derived from potentially contaminated feedstock or novel energy production systems.

Current projects

Animal signalling in courtship and contests (Mowles, Hardy)

Mathematical and computer modelling of pathogenic microorganisms (Stekel)

Rural hybrid energy enterprise systems: effects of wastes and residues (West)

Significant results

  • We have advanced the animal signalling field by revealing the similarities between signals used in courtship and contests (Mowles), identified the novel use of a sex pheromones as ‘anti-aphrodisiacs’ in parasitoid wasps using real-time chemical analysis (Mowles, Hardy) and provided a comprehensive resource for contest researchers (Hardy, ‘Animal Contests’ Cambridge University Press).
  • West & Tracy (2009) showed for the first time that immune response in adult dungflies is heightened by larval exposure to environmentally realistic concentrations of ivermectin (a commonly used veterinary drug).
  • Stekel has improved transcription factor binding site prediction through the use of novel non-independent energy-based multiple sequence alignments (Salama and Stekel 2013).

Applied and Behavioural Ecology

C26 Gateway Building, School of Biosciences
The University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus
Nr Loughborough, LE12 5RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 6052