Centre for the Environment

Image of Francis Gilbert

Francis Gilbert

Professor of Ecology, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences



BA(Hons), St John's College, Cambridge 1978, PhD, St John's College, Cambridge 1981, Harkness Fellow 1982-3, Research Fellow, Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge 1982-4, Lecturer (1984), Associate Professor (1996), Professor (2014) University of Nottingham, Leverhulme Fellowship (1998)

Teaching Summary

I teach mainly on the following courses (with bits of some others):

4th-yr: Process & Practice in Science (C14703), Advanced Experimental Design & Statistics (C14704)

3rd-yr: Conservation (C13696), Evolution & Behaviour (C13583), Project

2nd-yr: Ecology (C12338), Experimental Design & Analysis (C12362)

1st-yr: Life on Earth (C11LOE)

Research Summary

I study the evolution of ecological and behavioural attributes of organisms, mainly in the field. I am particularly interested in the evolution of life histories and mimicry in insects, coevolution… read more

Selected Publications

Current Research

I study the evolution of ecological and behavioural attributes of organisms, mainly in the field. I am particularly interested in the evolution of life histories and mimicry in insects, coevolution between plants and insects (especially in pollination), and in the importance of habitat fragmentation to populations and conservation.

The evolutionary biology of hoverflies

I have studied hoverflies (Diptera, Syrphidae) throughout my research career, especially the evolution of imperfect mimicry. A succession of talented students has addressed this question, and we continue to explore the constraints on colour patterns. A new method of evaluating pattern similarity (the distance transform) was invented recently by former PhD student Chris Taylor, which we now use in mapping the survival value of different patterns.

Conservation in Egypt

With my Egyptian partner Professor Zalat, I coordinate an international multidisciplinary team of colleagues working in the Protectorate. We have initiated and carried out projects on biodiversity mapping, grazing, population dynamics of spiny mice, butterfly metapopulations, insect-plant interactions, ecological chemistry, plant population genetic structure, small mammal parasite communities, the diversity of ground beetles, spider diversity, the impact of introduced honeybees on native wild bees, the value of Bedouin gardens as refuges in the landscape, Bedouin ethnobotany, Bedouin environmental education, and the social anthropology of the South Sinai Bedouin.

Fundamental to such efforts are biodiversity studies: we have put in place a systematic process of recording and mapping the biodiversity of the area, concentrating on the plants and their associated insects. From 2005-7 I was seconded to the Ministry of Environmental Affairs in Egypt helping my colleague Samy Zalat to run a $1m-project called BioMAP, funded by Italian Debt-Swap money, aimed at improving biodiversity mapping, monitoring, research and assessment in all the Protected Areas of Egypt. This project created a National Biodiversity Database of all taxonomic groups for the whole of Egypt, and is using this database to assess the conservation value of Egyptian habitats under the threat of climate change.

The wadis within the great volcanic Ring Dyke around St Katherine constitute a set of habitats semi-isolated by the steep mountains. The more we study this system, the more distinct and unique each wadi appears. Clearly the gradual drying of the Sahara over the last 10,000 years has marooned an entire community of animals and plants on the high mountains here, and there are many genetically distinct species and populations. Each drainage system and each wadi appears to contain a unique community of animals and plants, and many populations appear to have evolved semi-independently (as assessed by genetic differentiation. Wadi topography forms a system of interconnected, yet evolutionarily semi-independent communities that is very interesting academically, and very important from a conservation standpoint. We are currently testing for the existence of micro-coevolution in some insect-plant systems.

Centre for the Environment

C/O School of Geography
The University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0)115 846 7712