I studied Ecological Sciences at the University of Edinburgh including a year abroad at the University of Queensland, Australia, focusing on tropical ecology. This was followed by several years as an ecologist in the private, government and charity sectors. My PhD with Community Ecology Research Oxford (CERO) used insect food webs to investigate the impact of anthropogenic changes on ecosystem structure and functioning. This was followed by a post-doctoral position with Operation Wallacea in Peru undertaking long-term monitoring of species responses to climate change. I began my lecturing career as an Associate Lecturer in Statistics at Birkbeck University of London in 2015, before joining the University of Leicester in 2016.
I am co-lead for the ‘Environmental Change and Loss’ Research Challenge Group in the Institute for Environmental Futures.
My current research projects fall under three broad categories:
Forest Ecology and Restoration
• The role of invertebrates in wood decomposition and carbon cycling. Current experiments in this field in the Amazon with Operation Wallacea and in the UK at BIFoR FACE (Birmingham Institute of Forest Research Free-Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment).
• Creating urban forests with Earthwatch Europe (https://tinyforest.earthwatch.org.uk/)
• Working with the National Forest exploring the impacts of deadwood addition and tree veteranisation on young forest plantations.
• I work with Leicester City Council investigating how biodiversity in the city can be increased by creating wildflowers meadows on roadside verges (The Leicester Bee Road project).
• I work with the “Saving the Saffron Brook” project to explore the impacts of river restoration on water quality.
Citizen Science and Nature-Connectedness
• I work with colleagues in Psychology and Computing integrating citizen science approaches and “green prescribing” to explore how this may improve wellbeing.
Williams, M., Adeney Thomas, J., Brown, G., Pathak, M., Burns, M., Steffen, W., Clarkson, J., Zalasiewicz, J. 2022. 'Mutualistic Cities of the Near Future', in Adeney Thomas, J. (ed,), Altered Earth: Getting the Anthropocene Right. Polity Books.
Cooke, J., Araya, Y., Bacon, K.L., Bagniewska, J.M., Batty, L.C., Bishop, T.R., Burns, M., Charalambous, M., Daversa, D.R., Dougherty, L.R. and Dyson, M., 2021. Teaching and learning in ecology: a horizon scan of emerging challenges and solutions. Oikos, 130(1), pp.15-28.
Forest ecology: In particular the role of deadwood in biodiversity enrichment and carbon cycling.
Integrating citizen science, pedagogy and wellbeing.
Urban ecology: In particular the impacts of artificial lighting at night on bats and invertebrates.
I teach across Biological Sciences, Natural Sciences and Geography. I am programme lead for the Natural Sciences (Zoological and Ecological Science) stream. I convene courses in global change biology and conservation, behavioural ecology, field biology and statistics.
Press and media
Citizen Science. Urban Ecology. Forest Ecology.
Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Authority (SFHEA) 2021
DPhil Zoology. University of Oxford. 2015.
BSc (Hons) Ecological Sciences (Ecology). University of Edinburgh. 2006.