Welcome to Emily Warner – DPhil studying forest restoration

Friday, June 1st, 2018. Posted by Owen Lewis.

A warm welcome to Emily Warner whose DPhil is supervised by Owen Lewis, Andy Hector (Plant Sciences) and Nick Brown (Linacre College). Emily is funded as part of the NERC Environmental Research Doctoral Training Programme and will be researching the consequences of forest restoration for ecosystem functions and services, starting with a focus on the Caledonian forests of the Scottish Highlands.

Welcome to Talya Hackett

Monday, May 28th, 2018. Posted by Owen Lewis.

CERO welcomes Dr Talya Hackett. Talya joins us to run the Oxford component of an exciting new mosquito food web project in Ghana, in collaboration with Prof Sir Charles Godfray.

First detection of honey bee viruses in hoverfly (syrphid) pollinators

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018. Posted by Owen Lewis.

Photo: Eristalis tenax, one of the studied hoverfly species. Photo (c) John Bridges

Infectious diseases are a key driver of honeybee population declines. New research has revealed that these infections can spread between pollinator species that feed from the same flowers.

Researchers from the Department of Zoology, led by Professor Owen Lewis, sampled honeybees and hoverflies from woodlands and grasslands near Oxford. When the samples were tested for viruses by collaborators at Royal Holloway University of London the team found that viruses that are harmful to honeybees also occurred in the hoverflies. This is the first time that hoverflies have been identified as having the potential to spread diseases amongst honeybee populations.

“Our work shows that a particularly important group of pollinators, hoverflies, can carry the same diseases as honeybees,” said Professor Lewis.  “So viral infections could be transmitted between different pollinator species which visit the same flowers. Unlike honeybees, hoverflies can be very mobile, so they have the potential to spread diseases widely through the landscape.”

Professor Lewis and graduate student Kaitlin Deutsch, now based at Cornell University, hope to extend their work to investigate networks of interactions between multiple species of pollinators and their different pathogens.

The paper, published today in Biology Letters, can be viewed in full here.

Congratulations to Kristiina Visakorpi

Thursday, February 1st, 2018. Posted by Owen Lewis.

Many congratulations to Kristiina who has been awarded a “working grant” from the Finnish Cultural Foundation (“Suomen Kulttuurirahasto”, The grant will provide funds to support her work completing the final chapters of her PhD.

Job opportunities with CERO: Postdoctoral Researcher, Project Co-ordinator and Technician Posts

Monday, January 22nd, 2018. Posted by Owen Lewis.

We are currently advertising 3 posts for an exciting project investigating the food web consequences of eliminating the mosquitoes that transmit malaria (deadline: 31 January). Please see the Opportunities page for more information.

Roy Lancaster TV Broadcast of the Year Award

Sunday, November 26th, 2017. Posted by Owen Lewis.

A BBC television segment on parasitoid wasps featuring CERO’s Dr Chris Jeffs has won a prestigious prize, the Roy Lancaster TV Broadcast of the Year Award, at the Garden Media Guild Awards. 

Click here to read more about the award, and watch the clip on the BBC2 Gardeners World website.

Welcome to Nicky Stanek

Sunday, October 15th, 2017. Posted by Owen Lewis.

Nicky is a new DPhil student co-supervised by Owen Lewis. She’ll be using Positive Deviance as a tool to understand why some farms have much higher biodiversity than others. You can find out more on her ‘People’ page.

Predicting the effects of habitat modification on networks of interacting species

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017. Posted by Owen Lewis.

When humans modify natural ecosystems, how do interactions among species change? New research from our group has found that mathematical models can predict complex changes in insect behaviour using simple descriptions of their feeding preferences.

The research, published in the journal Nature Communications, was able to predict parasitism rates after deforestation without the need for extensive field data.

“Collecting field data is necessary but expensive, so it’s great to show we can use mathematical models to help focus efforts and make data collection more efficient,” commented Dr Phillip Staniczenko, lead author and research fellow at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Centre at the University of Maryland, USA.

“Faced with all the complicated relationships among species, and between species and the environment, it’s amazing we can identify simple patterns that, although not perfect, describe how humans might be affecting parasitism in the same way at different places all over the world.”

The international team of researchers set out to see if recorded changes in interactions between parasitic insects and their hosts shared similarities between data sets from different countries. They used data from field sites located in a diverse range of ecosystems in Ecuador, Indonesia, and Switzerland.

The team found that when interaction preferences changed, they did so in the same way in each country. This meant they could design models that captured systematic shifts in interaction preferences to make predictions at new locations, without needing to collect lots of new interaction data.

Co-author Professor Owen Lewis, of Oxford’s Department of Zoology, added, “It would be very difficult and time consuming to study the feeding behaviour of all these species in the field – particularly in high diversity ecosystems like tropical rainforests. Fortunately, it turns out that using interaction preferences might allow us to skip that step.”

Whilst this study focused on deforestation, this new mathematical approach will be valuable for understanding the consequences of many types of human-driven environmental change.

You can read the full paper for free on the Nature Communications web site, or take a look at the press release.


The image depicts a trap nest containing a mason wasp (Antherhynchium flavomarginatum) pupa, left; and a mason wasp larva, right, that has been parasitized by the larva of the wasp parasitoid Lycogaster violaceipennis.
Credit: Felix Fornoff, University of Freiburg

Welcome to new DPhil student Mark Wong who joins the research group this week

Friday, October 6th, 2017. Posted by Owen Lewis.

Welcome to new DPhil student Mark Wong who joins the research group this week. Mark is an ant expert from Singapore. You can find out more on his ‘People’ page.

Visiting para-ecologists from Papua New Guinea

Monday, September 18th, 2017. Posted by Becky Morris.

We were pleased to welcome para-ecologists Nancy Lebun and Gibson Maiya from the New Guinea Binatang Research Center to Oxford last week to talk about our research. Thanks to all who helped host them.