Dr Christopher Hassall

Dr Christopher Hassall

Profile

I joined the University of Leeds as a Lecturer in Animal Biology in September 2012.

I completed my undergraduate degree in Zoology at the University of Liverpool in 2005, and stayed on there for my PhD on the impacts of environmental warming on dragonflies which I finished in 2009. I then held two postdoctoral fellowship positions at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, from 2009-2010 on global change ecology (funded by the Canadian Government) and 2010-2012 on urban freshwater ecology (funded by the Ontario Government). 

Responsibilities

  • Director of Student Education

Research interests

Biological responses to global change

My primary interests lie in the biological impacts of (i) climate change and (ii) urbanisation. My work investigates changing geographical (distributions) and temporal (phenology) patterns of species occurrence using historical datasets.  It is vital to evaluate the capacity of different species to respond to environmental change, as those species that cannot respond face an uncertain future.  Principally I have used insects (Odonata, Hymenoptera, and Syrphidae) as well as mammals as model systems for investigating these topics.

Key papers:


Freshwater ecology and conservation

Freshwater comprises only a very small proportion of all the water on earth but is vital to the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems.  My research focuses on the ecology of ponds (lentic water bodies with an area <2ha), which dominate many landscapes and contribute an enormous amount of biodiversity to the regional species pool.  Despite their great number and importance, these small habitats are relatively poorly understood both in terms of what drives their biodiversity and how that diversity changes over time. One interesting aspect of ponds is their use to provide ecosystem services (flood control, pollution reduction, aesthetics) in urban areas. My research focuses on how these services can be maintained or enhanced while also maximising the contribution of urban ponds to urban biodiversity.

Key papers:


Evolution of insects

Alongside my ecological research, I am involved in work on a number of evolutionary topics. It has often been said that wild animals (and insects in particular) do not live long enough to experience aging in the wild. I have been involved in work that has demonstrated that wild damselfly populations do show aging in the wild. I am also involved in work on the evolution of mimicry, using the hoverflies (Diptera: Syrphidae) that mimic stinging bees and wasps (Hymenoptera) as a model system.  Finally, I am interested in the ways that form and function interact with the environment in the case of insect flight.

Key papers:


Higher education pedagogy

As well as scientific research, I maintain a funded program of research on pedagogical advances Higher Education. Particular areas of interest include identifying and breaking down barriers to the use of technology, and testing the effectiveness of teaching interventions.

Key papers:


Collaborations

My work involves collaborations across the University of Leeds, where I am based in and co-leader of the Ecology and Evolution Research Group.  I am also an active member of Water@Leeds - a research hub containing 150 researchers focusing on all aspects of water research.  I am also an active member of the University of Leeds Biology Education Research Group (ULBERG), which leads pedagogical innovation within the faculty. I maintain collaborations with the Institute of Psychological Sciences, where I work with psychologists to use humans as model systems to investigate evolutionary questions.  Finally, I collaborate extensively with staff in the School of Geography to answer landscape-scale environmental questions concerning the ecology of freshwaters.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://biologicalsciences.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Qualifications

  • BSc (Hons) Zoology, University of Liverpool
  • PhD, University of Liverpool
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Professional memberships

  • Royal Entomological Society
  • British Ecological Society
  • Freshwater Biological Association

Student education

I teach on a variety of modules on the Biology, Zoology, Genetics, and Ecology and Conservation Biology programmes, as well as on the MSc/MRes Biodiversity and Conservation programme. My teaching incorporates computer-based analytical modules that teach contemporary approaches to environmental and statistical analysis, lecture and discussion based modules that explore innovative research across the biological sciences, and international field trips where students gain a first-hand experience of the ecosystems about which they have been learning back at the university. I also supervise a large number of postgraduate researchers and taught postgraduate students. Example project areas can be seen below:

Undergraduate project topics:

  • Aquatic invertebrate community ecology
  • Terrestrial insect ecology
  • Evolution of mimicry and camouflage
  • Insect morphology and function
  • Climate change impacts on biological systems
  • Urban ecology
  • Environmental attitudes
  • Educational research

Postgraduate studentship areas:

  • Insect flight ecology
  • Ecology of freshwaters
  • Evolution of mimicry and camouflage
  • Biological impacts of global change
  • Urban ecology and socio-ecology
  • Environmental attitudes

Research groups and institutes

  • Ecology and Evolution

Current postgraduate research students

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://biologicalsciences.leeds.ac.uk/research-opportunities">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>