Dr Moya Burns

Associate Professor Ecology and Environmental Science

School/Department: Biological Sciences, School of

Telephone: +44 (0)116 252 3715



I am an ecologist with a varied past working in ecological consultancy, government agencies and the charity sector before joining the University of Leicester. My work encompasses interdisciplinary themes around ecology, citizen science and environmental education. I am interested in exploring how citizen science can be embedded in teaching to generate data which addresses current environmental challenges, whilst also enabling students to gain authentic experience in research and ecological survey skills. With colleagues in psychology I work on a number of projects which explore the potential wellbeing benefits of citizen science approaches for students and members of the wider public. My teaching and research are centred around applied ecological questions on topics such as improving urban biodiversity, forest restoration and river restoration with collaborators from Saving Saffron Brook, Leicester City Council, Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, The Canal and River Trust, The National Forest, Earthwatch and Twycross Zoo. I chair the University Biodiversity Working Group which works with students, academics, the grounds and estates teams, and local government organisations to improve campus biodiversity.  I am co-lead for the Environmental Change and Loss Research challenge in the Institute for Environmental Futures



Current research projects fall under three broad categories:

  • Citizen science and nature-connectedness
    • Working with colleagues in psychology to explore how citizen science approaches can be applied as a ‘green prescribing’ measure and how this may improve wellbeing, particularly in underrepresented groups.
    • Exploring the impact of embedding citizen science in teaching on student attainment, satisfaction, wellbeing and environmental literacy.


  • Forest ecology and restoration
    • The role of invertebrates in wood decomposition and carbon cycling. Current experiments in this field in the Ecuadorian 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 (
    • Working with the National Forest exploring the impacts of deadwood addition and tree veteranisation on young forest plantations.


  • Urban ecology
    • Working with the Saving the Saffron Brook project to explore the impacts of river restoration on water quality.
    • Working with Leicester City Council to investigate how biodiversity in the city can be increased by creating wildflowers meadows on roadside verges (the Leicester Bee Road project).


Balzter, H., Macul, M., Delaney, B., Tansey, K., Espirito-Santo, F., Ofoegbu, C., Petrovskii, S., Forchtner, B., Nicholes, N., Payo, E., Heslop-Harrison, P., Burns, M., Basell, L., Egberts, E., Stockley, E., Desorgher, M., Upton, C., Whelan, M., and Yildiz, A. 2023. Loss and Damage from Climate Change: Knowledge Gaps and Interdisciplinary Approaches. Sustainability15(15), p.11864.

Harrison, H., Burns, M., Darko, N. and Jones, C., 2023. Exploring the benefits of nature-based interventions in socio-economically deprived communities: a narrative review of the evidence to date. Perspectives in Public Health, p.17579139231170768.

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, and 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.
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