Professor Richard Pywell
Professor Richard Pywell is Head of Biodiversity research at UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology – an independent, not- for-profit environmental research institute. Richard is a botanist by training and has 30 years’ research experience into the management and restoration of semi-natural and farmed ecosystems. He works closely with practitioners, policy-makers and the farming industry to co-design solutions to pressing environmental challenges.
Richard leads the National Honey Monitoring Scheme that is working with bee keepers to understand the pressures on honeybees and other pollinators. He also leads the AgZero+ research programme – a major government-funded initiative to develop efficient and sustainable farming systems that are resilient to future environmental change. Richard has written a number of practical guides for land managers, including the Habitat Creation and Management for Pollinators.
Dr Ben Woodcock
Ben has worked with honeybees, wild bees and other insects in and around agricultural land for the last 20 years, trying to develop new ways to manage these systems that allow farmers to produce food and remain profitable while reducing the impact that agriculture has on the wider environment.
A lot of his work over the last 5 years has focused on the impacts of pesticides on bees. This started with looking at the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides first on wild bee population over a nearly 20 year period and then as part of the largest ever farm scale assessment of the effects of these insecticides on honeybees and wild bees in England, Germany and Hungary. You can hear Ben talking about this project on BBC’s Inside Science. Since then Ben has become every more interested in how we can use honey samples to track residues of pesticides, undertaking some of the first work that led to the development of the honey monitoring scheme.
Ben has been involved in the NHMS since its beginning and has published on how we have used the scheme's data to look at the effects of agriculture on honeybees. Ben also leads the work that links the samples collected by NHMS with Defra's need for indicators of real world pesticide exposure for honeybees. This is part of the government's commitment to the 25 Year Environment Plan.
Dr Anna Oliver
Although Anna no longer works on the NHMS, we would like to recognise her great achievement of setting up the scheme in 2018 and running it nearly single-handedly until she left in mid-2022. It was due to Anna's commitment to making the NHMS a success that saw participant numbers rise from ~200 in 2018 to >1,500 in 2022. She worked tirelessly on every aspect of the scheme - emailing beekeepers, checking in samples, processing samples in the lab, preparing sequencing data, communicating results, presenting to beekeeping associations, and preparing manuscripts on the NHMS. Her commitment and energy is greatly missed by the team!
Dr Jennifer Shelton
Jenny took over running of the day-to-day aspects of the NHMS in October 2022. She is an infectious disease epidemiologist by background but became involved in citizen science during her PhD and has been a beekeeper since 2018 - so these two interests collided in the NHMS! Jenny supports Ellie in the pollen analysis aspect of the NHMS, from DNA extractions through to sequencing and communicating results to beekeepers. She is currently exploring the wealth of data acquired by the scheme from 2018 to 2022 looking for associations between forage diversity, agricultural intensification, climate, hive health and longevity and honey production. If you would like Jenny to give a talk to your beekeeping association about the NHMS, please contact email@example.com.
Ellie is the lab technician responsible for carrying out the start of the honey pipeline, processing all the samples that are sent into the NHMS. She handles the initial intake measurements (sugar and water percentages), filtration, and assists in DNA extractions for downstream analysis.
Dr Lindsay Newbold
Lindsay has been a key member of the NHMS since its inception, applying her molecular skills to look at the interactions between forage and the landscape. She has a keen interest in looking at how bee gut microbes can influence health and disease prevalence, and how in turn this is impacted by environmental change. Additionally, she’s investigating ways of improving the plant identification in honey by using alternative sequencing methods and genes. She’s really excited to work on the scheme to answer these big scientific questions at an unprecedented scale, which couldn’t be done without the amazing participants and their incredible foraging friends!
Dr David Roy
David is an ecologist with a particular interest in monitoring of biodiversity, particularly using citizen science approaches. David has the most experiences with butterfly monitoring but has been delighted to have supported the NHMS since it started. David's role has been to oversee the development of the scheme website and matching plant names to DNA detected in honey samples. He is excited to see what this amazing scheme tells us about our changing environment.
As a spatial ecologist, Emily extracts the landscape data surrounding every hive to get a picture of their local habitats. She uses UKCEH data products, such as the Land Cover Maps, to find out more about land cover, crops and wider pesticide application.
Anthea is the Head of Comms and Engagement at UKCEH. She has been helping farmers, beekeepers, policy staff and the public to understand threats to the health of honey bees through the NHMS since 2018 and helped to produced the animation about the scheme on our About page.
Biren is involved mostly on the technical side of the website. This includes providing support on managing contents, if needed, but most importantly he will be migrating the site from Drupal 7 to 9. This also involves migrating all Indicia pages, which form the backbone of the NHMS website and collate all the beekeeper, habitat, pollen and pesticide data.
Michael started his PhD with the NHMS in September 2023 co-supervised by Lindsay, Ben and Richard at UKCEH and Dr Soon Gweon at University of Reading (previously a bioinformation at UKCEH, Soon wrote the HONEYPI pipeline we use to analyse the NHMS sequencing data). Michael will be using environmental DNA (eDNA) to investigate the role of habitat upon the transmission of pollinator disease. His studentship is funded under the SCENARIO Doctoral Training Program (DTP) by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), with additional financial support from the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA).
Insect pollinators are an integral component of global ecosystems, and vital to future food security. UK and worldwide pollinator populations are declining, with declines widely attributed to agricultural intensification, the establishment of invasive species, disease and climate change. However, the direction, strength and causes of insect declines are highly variable, and evidence is needed to quantify the mechanisms driving these processes. One key topic is the role of emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) and potential disease spillover from managed to wild bee populations.
Through a combination of cutting edge field and laboratory techniques this project will explore the use of emerging DNA sequencing technologies to investigate :
- Can common bee pathogens be detected in eDNA?
- Are honeybees a good sentinel species to explore managed and wild pollinator interactions?
- Do any common plant signatures occur between pollinators, and are these linked to potential disease transmission sites?
We are currently advertising three Masters projects with the NHMS:
- Detecting bee pathogen DNA in honey samples collected by UK beekeepers from 2018-2023 - co-supervised by Jenny and Lindsay at UKCEH. [On-site] More details here.
- Detecting microplastics in honey samples collected by UK beekeepers from 2018-2023 - co-supervised by Jenny and Dr Rich Cross at UKCEH. [On-site] More details here.
- National Honey Monitoring Scheme: Implications of pesticide exposure for honey bee health - co-supervised by Jenny and Ben at UKCEH. [Remote] More details here.
These projects are currently being advertised to Master's students on Imperial College London's Silwood campus but if you are interested in doing one of these projects, or have your own idea for a project you'd like to do with the NHMS, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.