Dexiecuo studies: metacommunity dynamics; similarities in community composition and species-sorting. Her field work focuses on gap disturbances and community similarity in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Find more information about Dexiecuo here

Chengjin's research interests include: the balance of niche and neutral processes as drivers in shaping the community structure; positive interactions among plants in alpine meadow communities; positive interactions and population dynamics; the application of Bayesian inference in ecology; the spatial structure and species coexistence. For more information read here. 


Robin is a computational statistician with interests including theoretical ecology, multivariate Gaussian Processes, and computational combinatorics.  Based at Auckland University of Technology, he is Senior Lecturer in Mathematical Sciences and has worked at various UK universities. He is also a regular contributer to the R programming language. For more information read  here.


Joe is an evolutionary geneticist with broad interests in the population genetics of wild animals.  His research combines state of the art genomic approaches with highly detailed observational and experimental data from natural populations to understand the genetic basis of fitness variation and how this may feed into responses to climate change. Read more about the work of his group here.

Dr florian menzel

Florian's research is centered around interactions between ant species, the chemical signals involved, and their effect on community structure and ecosystem functioning. The taxonomic focus of his group is on tropical and temperate ant communities, and interactions of ants with other ants, spiders and aphids. Read more about Florian's research here.

Collaborators at UWE Bristol

Dr Joel Allainguillaume  

Joel is a Senior Lecturer in Molecular Genetics in the Centre for Research in Biosciences at UWE, Bristol. To date, the majority of his research work has centered on the application of molecular and genomics approaches to address problems of agronomic, ecological and conservational importance. His area of expertise includes: Ecological Risk Assessment of GM crops; Crop improvement and Environmental monitoring and DNA barcoding.


Sam is a Senior lecturer in Environmental Science in the Department of Biomedical, Biological and Analytical Sciences in the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences. With 8 years of postdoctoral experience as a soil ecologist, he has a strong interest in biogeochemical mechanisms that regulate ecological systems and the potential of microbes for bioremdiation of wastes and lignocellusoic biomass.

Dr Pete Maxfield

Pete has a research background in biogeochemistry and utilising organic geochemical techniques to characterise and quantify C cycling, metabolic pathways and trace gas exchange. ​His main research focus has been the mechanistic study of methane cycling in terrestrial settings through the combination of stable isotope probing (SIP) and molecular characterisation techniques to delineate discrete processes in complex systems. ​

Professor Neil Willey

Neil predominantly focuses his research on plants and pollutants, in particular the uptake and effects of environmentally relevant radionuclides and toxic metals. He has over 20 years’ experience teaching and conducting research in environmental science. Due to his broad area of interest in plant physiology and expertise he is an exceptionally valuable advisor to the research group. 

RESEARCH students

Current students

Josie Phillips - PhD student

Josie is a conservation biologist and outdoor enthusiast living in Bristol, UK. Having previously lived and worked in Indonesia, she is familiar with the impact agricultural demand is having on nature across Southeast Asia. Josie is determined to develop new and innovative ways to reduce conflict between man and nature, her research focuses on the change in ecosystem dynamics when rainforest is converted to oil palm plantation— a controversial development issue about which she is very passionate. Her ability to speak Bahasa Indonesia and Malaysia is proving helpful with fieldwork in Borneo. Follow her Twitter(@josiepips) or Instagram(@josiephillips).

Dr Rosie Marshall  - msc student

Despite her part-time work as a General Practitioner of medicine (GP), Rosie is currently studying for her MSc in Advanced Wildlife Conservation in Practice at UWE. Her interests in evolutionary psychology and the benefits of green space for health have brought issues of environment, and conservation back to the forefront of her mind, and she is excited to be working with Ellwood Lab for her research project. Rosie's project focuses on the influence of host tree species on the soil microbial communities of epiphytic ferns. Her work involves comparison of soil samples from ferns at the Eden Project and feeds directly into Ellwood Lab's wider research interest in biodiversity in oil palm plantations.

Amy Staff - Placement Year Student

Amy is studying for her BSc in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Science at UWE, Bristol.  She is UWE’s Sustainability Officer for The Students' Union and is committed to instilling her passion for eco-conscious lifestyles in fellow students and staff at UWE. She has just recently completed a successful campaign to ensure The Students’ Union commits to stocking only RSPO Certified palm oil products in their shops and helped develop UWE’s Sustainable Palm Oil Policy (the first of it’s kind in any UK University). Amy also volunteers with Butterfly Conservation, where she teaches KS2 children about lepidopteran ecology, and how to develop green space for pollinators. She just recently returned from Turkey where she represented Butterfly Conservation on an international campaign. Amy will use her working relationship with Ellwood Lab to develop her knowledge on sustainability, behavior change and science communication.

Jessica Hill - Placement year Student

Jess has been working with the Ellwood Lab group since the Autumn of 2017 when her interests in Entomology brought her into contact with Josie's invertebrate collection. She has since worked with the group assisting with invertebrate sorting and cataloguing of specimens. Jess is studying for her BSc in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Science at UWE but her passion for all things small and scurrying will soon send her to deepest darkest Borneo to work in the heart of the Kinabatangan.  Jess will soon take her entomological skills to the next level and begin working on our new project with Oxford University Natural History Museum to digitalling catalogue Borneon Invertebrates.


Dr Julian Donald (PhD student)

Julian was Farnon's first PhD student to develop our understanding of the bird's nest fern model ecosystem. During his time with the group Julian developed as an ecologist, entomologist and  microbiologist, focusing his work on the structure and functioning of insect communities. Julian published a number of papers through his work with the group exploring the functional consequences of insect extinction in tropical forest canopies. Since completing his PhD in February 2018 he has moved on to a position as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Toulouse, France. You can follow Julian's work on Twitter @Judoecol.

Holly Dillon (Msc student)

Holly worked with Ellwood Lab between November 2016 and November 2018 whilst undertaking her MSc in Advanced Wildlife Conservation in Practice at UWE. Prior to this she attained a First Class degree in Conservation Biology at UWE and had worked as a volunteer on Skomer Island, Wales conducting seabird population surveys. For her MSc thesis Holly turned her attention to invertebrates living in bird's nest ferns across degraded habitats in Borneo. She conducted field surveys over two months in Danum Valley to determine the relationship in biodiversity and ecosystem function across a habitat degradation gradient. Holly has since returned to her home town of Llanidloes, Wales.

Jay Illott (bsc student)

Jay joined the team as an undergraduate student at UWE in March 2017 as an assistant in the lab working with Julian and Josie to sort their collection of tropical invertebrates. He was studying for his BSc in Environmental Sciences and had an interest in ecosystem processes and entomology. This combined with his learned taxonomic skills enabled him to conduct a final year research project into isotopic enrichment from nutrients in tropical canopy invertebrates. After completing his undergraduate degree in May 2018, Jay has opted to further his studies with an MSc in Computer Programming. 

 Ellwood Lab

Evolutionary Biology, Ecology, Biogeography, Entomology, Conservation