Journal news: Executive Editor announcement

Looking ahead to 2023, we are excited to announce that Nate Sanders is stepping into the role of Executive Editor.

Professor & Director of the E.S. George Reserve at University of Michigan, Nate has been a Senior Editor with the journal since September 2015 and has led on a number of exciting initiatives in that time; most recently an upcoming Special Feature, ‘Leveraging natural history collections to understand the impacts of global change’. His research interests include macroecology, global change ecology and community ecology. He tends to work on ants but dabbles with other taxa when necessary.

Get to know Nate in our ‘meet the editor’ Q&A below.

Nate takes on the Executive Editor role from Jean-Michel Gaillard (Directeur de Recherche, Research Unit ‘Biométrie et Biologie Evolutive’, CNRS, University of Lyon). Jean-Michel has shown fantastic commitment to the journal and has steered us through the globally unprecedented times of recent years. His understanding, not only of the field but of the journal’s scope and reach, have been of tremendous value. We thank Jean-Michel for his time as Executive Editor and are pleased to confirm that he will be staying on as a Senior Editor into next year.

Meet the Editor: Nate Sanders

What do you remember of the first paper you published?
Three key memories stick out: (1) the first time I plotted the results of the experiment and saw that, sure enough, neighbouring ant colonies affect resource use and behaviour, (2) getting the acceptance letter in the mail, and (3) getting a box of reprints that I quickly mailed out to colleagues around the world. Strange that that was only 22 years ago!

When was the last time you had a paper rejected?
Ha! Good question. I have a colleague who claims to have never had a paper rejected. I have had many rejections, including several this fall.

If you could wake up tomorrow with a new skill, what would it be?
I’d love to be a skilled banjo player. My older son is, and I’m jealous.

Are you a good cook? What’s your signature dish?
I think I am a good cook (but a not-so-good baker)! My mother-in-law gave me a Jamie Oliver cookbook many years ago, and that started me on my path.  I don’t think I have a signature dish, but one of the only things everyone in my family eats is fresh pesto from our garden.

Yellow labrador sat by Christmas tree
Rosalind feeling festive

Which small thing irritates you the most at work?
Hearing how busy, busy, busy everyone is.

How do you deal with stress?
Walks with my wife and our yellow lab Rosalind (named after Rosalind Franklin, FYI), getting beat at FIFA 22 by my younger son, piddling around in our yard.

Who inspired you most as a student?
It’s too hard to name one person, so I’ll name several: Dave Dussourd, Deane Bowers, Deborah Gordon, and Dan Simberloff. Many people still inspire me.

If you could recommend one place for people to travel on holiday, where would it be and why?
Northern Michigan is pretty spectacular. The forests, lakes, and small towns offer up something for nearly everyone. But please, don’t everyone go visit all at once.

You can meet more of our Editorial board here on the journal website. And, if you’re attending British Ecological Society’s 2022 Annual Meeting in Edinburgh, Nate will be there, so do say hi.

Editor news: summer 2022

This summer, we’re pleased to welcome both a new Associate Editor, Kate Pereira Maia, and a new Research Highlights Editor in Mariano A. Rodriguez-Cabal. Get to know them here.

Research Highlights Editor: Mariano A. Rodriguez-Cabal

Grupo de Ecologia de Invasiones, INIBIOMA – CONICET – Universidad del Comahue, Patagonia, Argentina.

Mariano is a community ecologist with broad interests in the factors that generate, maintain and threaten biodiversity. He uses observational, experimental, meta-analytical and theoretical approaches to understand how the loss of some species and the gain of others influence plant-animal interactions, vertebrate and ant seed dispersers, the diversity and structure of communities, and ecosystem processes.

Recently an Associate Editor on our board, Mariano moves into the role of Research Highlights Editor, in which he will work to commission and edit the Research Highlight features published in each issue of the journal.

Keywords: community ecology, invasive species, frugivory, seed dispersal by animals

Associate Editor: Kate Pereira Maia

University of Sao Paulo, Brazil

Kate is interested understanding the mechanisms affecting the structure of ecological communities, and the effects of such structures on ecological dynamics, community resilience and coevolution. She does so using network tools and empirical data on interactions between species. Kate is also interested in combining these tools with applied questions on species invasions, restoration, habitat loss and fragmentation.

If Kate seems familiar, you may recognise her as the winner of our 2021 Elton Prize early career researcher award.

Keywords: community ecology, species interactions, ecological networks, mutualisms, empirical data analysis, modelling, networks, terrestrial, pollination, herbivory, seed dispersal

See the full Journal of Animal Ecology Editorial Board here.

Almost 50%: representation of women within Journal of Animal Ecology

This International Women’s Day, Journal of Animal Ecology’s Editors reflect on the path to improving the representation of women within our editorial board, and invite you to discuss how we, as a journal, may continue to support gender diversity overall.

In 2007, Journal of Animal Ecology was in a period of growth. Submissions had increased greatly over the preceding years and our editorial board consisted of 43 expert ecologists covering a range of specialties within the diverse animal ecology field. Over the next seven years, growth continued, with submission numbers rising from just under 800 in 2007 to just over 1000 in 2014. And the board kept up; increasing to 64 individuals. Things were looking good. That was until we turned our attention to the balance of male and female editors.

JH_IWD.JAE (003)

Some of the faces that have made up your journal editorial board

In 2014, just 14.1% of our editors (Senior and Associate) were female. This was actually an improvement on the 4.7% in 2007 but nowhere near representative or balanced enough. Clearly, something had to be done if the journal was going to reflect, not only society at large, but also the diversity of ecologists who may submit manuscripts to the journal.

It was at around this time that active efforts to increase gender diversity began to ramp up. When approaching people to join the board, and through our open calls, the journal made a conscious effort to approach and support more women whose scientific expertise were (and still are) an asset to the journal. A further seven years later, in 2021, 44 of our 95 editors were female, and today, there are 87 expert researchers on Journal of Animal Ecology’s board; 43 of them are women. That’s 49%. Finally, near something that reflects our society – both the British Ecological Society, where current membership data shows 55% female, 42% male, 1% non-binary, 2% prefer not to say and 1% prefer to self-describe; and beyond.

Former Executive Editor, Ken Wilson was largely responsible for leading the charge to increase the representation of women on the board, of course with enthusiastic support by the rest of the editorial team and the BES:

This is one of the things I am most proud of from my time as Executive Editor, but it wasn’t without its detractors because although we managed to achieve gender parity, in the process we also had to lose a number of excellent long-serving (male) Associate Editors who had been with us for the maximum nine years. Hopefully, the current Senior Editors can continue to diversify the editorial board even further.

Importantly, we note that in the above we have referred to female and male, women and men, but we fully recognise the fact that there are multiple dimensions within and beyond gender diversity. Like the rest of the BES, Journal of Animal Ecology is committed to promoting a community of ecologists which is as diverse as possible. We are pleased with where we are as a journal but believe there is more to be done so that our editorial board, and our authors, reflect the incredible diversity of ecologists working on the ecology of animals in every corner of the world.

We remain all ears regarding how members of the BES, our authors, and ecologists more broadly would like us to continue improving. Please do not hesitate to get in touch at

Journal of Animal Ecology Senior Editors: Jean-Michel Gaillard, Darren Evans, Lesley Lancaster and Nate Sanders
Editorial Office: Emilie Aimé and Kirsty Scandrett

MEET THE EDITOR: Rob Salguero-Gómez

We are thrilled to announce that Rob Salguero-Gómez has been appointed as the new Commissioning Editor for Journal of Animal Ecology. Read on to find out a bit about Rob and how he hopes to help shape the journal in this new role. Get in touch to discuss any ideas for Reviews, Long-term Studies, ‘How To…’ articles and Concepts in Animal Ecology.

What can you tell us about the first paper you published?

My first first-author paper was published in our sister journal, Journal of Ecology, in 2010, and it is titled “Keeping plant shrinkage in the demographic loop”. Yes, I started as a plant ecologist! Now, however, I work with any creature that survives, develops, and reproduces – so that’s pretty much the entire Tree of Life. In this paper, I demonstrated that individuals that decrease in size within natural populations of 80 species increase their chances of survival, thus shaping their fitness. This was a cool finding because individual shrinkage had, prior to this study, been either neglected because it was thought to be part of a measuring error process, or simply overlooked due to lack of biological interest. This paper proved the the tenet “bigger is always better” in ecology is not necessarily always true. This work has since resulted in quite a few publications evaluating demographically plastic responses of animals and plants to stochastic environments. Check them out here:

Who inspired you most as a student? 

So many people! But if I had to choose one, I’d say my mother, at the risk of sounding topical. I owe much of my Mediterranean stubbornness and ability to network, but also my fascination for desert species in general to her. The story is too long… but if you ever catch me at a conference and want to hear more about it, let me know. I’ll be happy to chat about this, and also about all things Journal of Animal Ecology, of course!

What’s your favourite species and why? 

As a comparative demographer, there’s no way I can settle for just one. I’m particularly puzzled by species that set records, be longevity (Greenland sharks, bristlecone pines), growth (blue whales, bamboos), reproduction (corals, orchids) or any other demographic process. Species that have odd, extreme life histories are a particular obsession of mine, I must confess. e.g.: males who undergo marathonian intercourse sessions before dying out of exhaustion, as in dasyurids; individuals who drastically shape their anatomy to “make it to the next year”, as in the Marine Iguanas of the Galapagos (check out this mind-blowing paper); and a very favourite of mine: species that seemingly do not senesce, such as naked molerats.

If you could wake up tomorrow with a new skill, what would it be? 

Breathing under water. I love swimming and diving, but I find myself limited by how much time I can spend marvelling at underwater biodiversity without having to go to surface for more oxygen.

If any fictional character could join your lab, who would it be and why? 

Black Widow! Why she’s not had her own movie by now escapes my understanding… though I know that there’s one coming this year. Anyways, we need more strong, established people in academia who, like her, have an unusual background. We’d be so lucky to host her for a long-term sabbatical at the SalGo Team!

If you could recommend one place for people to travel to on holiday, where would it be and why? 

At the risk of sounding provincial: Cadiz, the Southern most province of Spain. That’s where I was raised. Great food, great culture, great architecture… and not yet many tourists. Zahara de los Atunes remains one of my favourite places from back home. If I were to choose something less “provincial” for me, I’d have to say the Yucatan Peninsula for the same reasons: the food, people, culture, architecture…and biodiversity there are to die for!

How do you de-stress?

Pre-pandemic, swimming. During the pandemic, my partner and I were adopted by the most wonderful ball of white fluff, a ragdoll cat. She has been a great source of mental support in the last 15 months.

Are you a good cook? What’s your signature dish? 

Yes! I love cooking… but I’ve got a pet-peeve: I get a bit stressed out if there are people in the kitchen. For me, cooking is a cathartic activity, so I like to be left to my own devices while doing so. Though not in the same league as my mom’s Spanish tortilla, I have to say that my friends have praised my own tortillas. I also make a pretty good gazpacho (cold tomato soup).

How many British Ecological Society Annual Meetings have you attended? Which one was the best? 

According to my dropbox folders, six. The first one was the shared INTECOL-BES one back in 2013 in London. Perhaps the most memorable one for me was the 2017 one, in Ghent. It was extremely difficult to arrive because half of Europe’s flight space was closed due to a snow storm… I remember tweeting about my various flight delays and eventual cancellations and receiving a response from my Head of Department (thanks Ben!) with a photo of him in the comfort of a Eurostar ride. The whole “must make it to Ghent” became an adventure. I ended up partnering with David Orme in an overnight bus… when I arrived in Ghent, I was totally exhausted, so I had to miss a few sessions. However, the enthusiasm of everybody there, the great talks and plenaries I saw, the night activities, and being able to re-connect with friends and colleagues made it all worth it. Oh, and of course the fact that that year I received the Journal of Animal Ecology’s Elton Award. It was a great conference all around – despite the elements.

What are you most looking forward to about being the Commissioning Editor on Journal of Animal Ecology? 

Helping and shaping. I look forward to helping authors deliver the most exciting papers in the field of animal ecology. I also look forward to contributing shaping the multiple directions and impacts that the Journal and the British Ecological Society have on ecologists worldwide and on society at large. In the former regard, I remain particularly committed to increasing diversity of colours, orientations, backgrounds, nationalities, languages, etc. in ecology.

Tell us a bit about the articles you hope to commission? 

I hope to help authors contribute further to the excellent work that has been published in Journal of Animal Ecology since it was first founded, back in 1932. In my position as Commissioning Editor, I will be managing Reviews, Long-term Studies, and Concepts in animal ecology. Below are some of the areas that I would love to see featured in the coming year in either of these formats:

– Deep-time impacts on current animal biodiversity and biogeographic patterns
– Effects of multiple stressors on ecosystem processes
– Nature vs. Nurture: what mechanisms shape senescence?
– Fast, cheap, and reliable technologies for ecological monitoring
– The role of (functional) traits in prediction animal responses to climate change
– Patterns and mechanisms of marine biodiversity in the Anthropocene
– Human-wildlife conflict in the era of new technologies
– Drivers of long-distance migrations and consequences for biodiversity
– Animal urban ecology in the era of mega-cities
– What phylogenetic tools to use for which animal ecology questions?

If any of these topics hit close to your home (office!), please get in contact with me to discuss fit for a potential commissioned article. 

Speed Review at the BES Annual Meeting: Get a Senior Editor’s Opinion on YOUR Manuscript

Coming to the BES Annual Meeting? Planning to submit a paper to a BES journal? Then you should sign up for the Speed Review Session on Thursday 12 December! (sign-up sheets will be on the BES Stand in the Exhibition Hall.) Find out more about this session below.

What is a Speed Review Session?

Essentially, Speed Review is a chance for you to get a Senior Editor’s opinion on your manuscript. All you need to do is sign-up and bring along a figure or a key finding from your research to centre the discussion on. Each session will be limited to five minutes, so try to have a succinct summary of your manuscript ready as well. The Editor you speak to will let you know what they think of your paper and try to give you some advice about any areas to highlight or any potential concerns that they might have about it.

When/Where Will the Speed Review Session be?

The Speed Review Session will be during the Poster Session on the second day of the BES Annual Meeting (Thursday 12 December). It will run from 17:30 until 18:30, so you’ll still have time to see the posters that day as well. The session will finish in plenty of time for you to get to the LGBT+ Mixer and/or the Conference Dinner.

We’ll have a table set up for each journal by the BES activities stand in the Exhibition Hall. People who have signed up will be asked to come to that stand to meet an Editor from their chosen journal. There may be a wait, but everyone who signs up will have the chance to talk to an Editor.

How Can I Get Involved?

The sign-up sheets will be on the BES Stand from the beginning of the Welcome Mixer on Tuesday until the Speed Review session begins (or all the places are taken). Places are limited though, so make sure to sign-up as soon as possible.

Please note, you must sign-up at the BES Stand if you want to take part in the Speed Review Session. Checking in for the event on the conference app does not count as signing up.

Meet the Editor: Lesley Lancaster

Lancaster, L_SEWhat do you remember of the first paper you published?

My first first-authored paper was ‘Adaptive social and maternal induction of antipredator dorsal patterns in a lizard with alternative social strategies’ (with Andrew McAdam, John Wingfield and Barry Sinervo as coauthors, Ecology Letters, 2007). This was a cool paper because we actually made a really exciting discovery—treating embryonic side blotched lizards with estradiol resulted in dramatic changes to their dorsal patterning! The discovery was serendipitous, but upon further reading, previous research indicated that migration of the neural crest cells during embryogenesis (which determines pigment patterns) is strongly dependent on regulation by estrogen response elements (EREs). Anyway, as far as I know, no one has followed up this discovery in this or other species. So if you’re reading this blog post and are interested in this topic, please consider taking up the torch and letting me know what you find!

side-blotched lizard (Uta stansburiana)

These side-blotched lizard (Uta stansburiana) hatchlings are sisters. The one on the right received a prenatal does of estradiol, resulting in extreme modification of its dorsal patterning.

When was the last time you had a paper rejected?

This happens to me all the time! It is never fun! The other thing that is no fun is rejecting other people’s papers. Unfortunately I have to reject papers in this role, and it’s by far the least pleasant part of the job. To mitigate this a bit, I reserve editorial duties for the early part of the week. I promise I won’t send you a rejection on Friday or over the weekend. Rejection is always unpleasant for everyone, but having a rejection ruin your weekend is unforgivable

If you could wake up tomorrow with a new skill, what would it be?

Talent for the creative arts.

Are you a good cook? What’s your signature dish?

Yes, I love cooking. I don’t have a signature dish, but I love to make anything that either involves a lot of chopping (like pico de gallo), or which cooks for a long time in the oven. A good one that comes to mind is a recipe I got a long time ago from an Emeril Lagasse show on FoodTV, where you slow cook ham houghs (hocks) with loads of spring greens, in a broth made from a roux flavoured with onions, celery, and beer. It’s pretty good!

Which small thing irritates you the most at work?

I can’t seem to get on top of my inbox. I just went for coffee and came back to 28 new emails.

How do you deal with stress?

Play with my children, walk the dog, or drink wine.

Who inspired you most as a student?

My dad was my earliest scientific inspiration- as a child, he taught me how to make fireworks, identify the local flora, and dissect the chickens from our backyard henhouse. As a student, papers by David Haig, Jason Wolf, Bill Rice, and Mary Jane West-Eberhard (among others!) helped shape my early ideas about the evolutionary process. Things that blew my mind early on in my scientific training were the life cycles of slime moulds and kelp (seaweed has eyes! Argh!).

If you could recommend one place for people to travel on holiday, where would it be and why?

Aberdeen, Scotland! We don’t get many tourists here, but this is a lovely part of the world and the people are fantastic.


Aberdeen beachfront by Gordon Robertson

Meet the Blog Editor: Sarah Marley

Next up in our Meet the Editor series is our Blog Editor Sarah Marley, marine biologist and fan of ancient woodlands. Catch Sarah at any of the breaks at the British Ecological Society Annual Meeting or during the Nature and Humans session on Tuesday morning (Hall 5).

What can you tell us about the first paper you published?

My first publication was based on my Honours thesis. I had very little clue about the whole publishing process and was terrified being both lead and corresponding author! But the Editor who dealt with my manuscript was fantastic – very patient, happy to answer my many ‘quick questions’, and even helped me deal with reviewer responses. This has always stayed with me as a great example of how the publishing experience should be!

What’s your favourite species and why?

I have worked with marine mammals for over a decade, but still get excited whenever a dolphin surfaces or a whale pops up! My Scottish accent gets really strong when I’m excited, so my younger years spent working on a whale-watch boat caused a lot of hilarity for the customers! But after several years of living overseas, I started to really miss the British wildlife. Since moving back a couple of months ago I have been delighted to reacquaint myself with red squirrels, tawny owls, and foxes!

Who inspired you most as a student?

My family are huge fans of Gerald Durrell and David Attenborough. As a kid, I would stay up late reading about Durrell’s childhood in Corfu, the challenges of starting his own zoo, and the exotic locations he adventured in looking for animals. Attenborough took these things from my imagination and made them ‘real’. Last year I gave a talk about my two science heroes as part of Laboratory – have a listen here!

If you could wake up tomorrow with a new skill, what would it be?

I would love to speak another language fluently (apart from Scottish and English, obviously!). My partner is French and it would be great to not only communicate with his family but have sneaky French conversations. I have tried learning on-and-off for years, and whilst my understanding is okay I struggle to formulate the words quick enough in conversation.

Are you a good cook? What’s your signature dish?

I like to think so! I’m best at making ‘warming’ food – stew, soup, oven bakes. These always seem to be appreciated by hungry field teams! My signature dish would have to be mushroom risotto, but my go-to comfort food is chicken, gravy, mashed potatoes and peas!

Are you attending #BES2018? If so, when is the best opportunity for people to meet you?

This will be my first BES conference! I am chairing the Nature and Humans session on Tuesday morning (Hall 5) and giving a talk on Tuesday afternoon in the S35 Behavioural Ecology session (Hall 10a).

Please send an informal photo that reflects you as a person

I enjoy walking along the beach. But as a marine mammal person, it is very hard to be ‘off duty’ – I am constantly scanning the waves, hoping to see a fin or a blow!

Sarah Busso

Even though I am a marine biologist, I love being in the woods! I spent a lot of my childhood exploring our local woods in Aberdeenshire and there is something very calming about being in a forest. This photo was taken when my former PhD supervisor and I were attending a conference in the US earlier this year. On the final day, we took a train out of the city and went for a hike along the Mississippi River. We’d soon left the path behind and were following an old trail – then a bald eagle flew by! A great end to the trip!

Sarah in Woods

A downside of taking me anywhere is that I am easily distracted by animals! A casual lunch can result in me crawling through the bushes, trying to find a calling frog! My friends are very accepting!

Sarah Bushes

Meet the Editor: Jean-Michel Gaillard

Next up in our new Meet the Editor series is AS Saint-Etienne and Tintin fan Jean-Michel Gaillard. You can catch Jean-Michel over lunch at British Ecological Society Annual Meeting.




What can you tell us about the first paper you published?

This paper, published in Canadian Journal of Zoology in 1986, was not really in line with my research themes. I acted as a consulting for statistical analysis and performed a PCA to study morphometrics of fish.

What’s your favourite species and why?

For sure Roe deer because I spent some much time to try understanding why these animals do what they do. However, I started working on these animals during my Master just by chance. The French National Hunting Organization was seeking for a reliable census method of roe deer and had collected lots of data for that. When they proposed to me to work on that species, I said Yes. It was in autumn 1983 and I am still working on this fascinating animals!


Who inspired you most as a student?

Without doubt Tim Clutton-Brock. His now classic work on red deer on Rum Island was a model for my research on roe deer. Moreover, the papers his research group published in Journal of Animal Ecology between 1978 and 1989 were among the most influential for my career.

If you could wake up tomorrow with a new skill, what would it be?

The ability of slowing down time so that I could benefit from 100 hours a day!

Are you a good cook? What’s your signature dish?

I am not at all a good cook. My signature dish is very modest: a kind of pie with potatoes, eggs, and onions. I am much better at eating than at cooking!

Please share a [funny] story about a paper you had rejected.

Rejecting a paper is never a funny thing and most of the time, it is a difficult decision. However, I remember one case for which I had the opportunity to meet the authors sometime after and we had the opportunity to collaborate.

Logo_AS_Saint-ÉtienneWhat’s your favourite sports team and why?

The football team of Saint-Etienne, the place where I live. It was a top team at the European scale in the late seventies but they cannot compete nowadays when money is so crucial for having a top team.

If you could recommend one place for people to travel to on holiday, where would it be and why?

While I am lucky enough to know several places I would want to recommend, I rank Paris above any others. Doing very simple things like having a drink on a terrace along the Seine River, reading a book on a bench of Jardin des Tuileries, doing shopping in Grands Magasins, or walking on Champs Elysees from Concorde square to Arc de Triomphe is magic in Paris.

What was the first album you owned?

The first album of Led Zeppelin. I was fifteen.

VLUU L210  / Samsung L210

Tintin mural painting by Hergé. Photo by Ferran Cornellà.

If any fictional character could join your lab, who would it be and why?

Certainly Tintin! He is a very nice person, looks for helping everybody, and successfully solves every problem he faces.

How many British Ecological Society annual meetings have you attended? Which one was the best?

Four. it is quite difficult for me to select one other the others. All meetings were great and I am always impressed by the organization. Making sure that everything goes perfectly well for 1300 people is not an easy thing and all meetings I attended to were highly successful. If I have to identify one in particular, it would be the meeting organized at Lille because it was my first one and by chance it was the joint meeting between BES and SFE.

Are you attending #BES2018? If so, when is the best opportunity for people to meet you?

Yes. The best opportunity to meet me would certainly be the lunch time.

Meet the Editor: Ken Wilson

Next up in our new Meet the Editor series is Liverpool FC fan and Executive Editor Ken Wilson. Find out who Ken would like to join his lab and where you can catchup with him at this year’s British Ecological Society Annual Meeting.

What can you tell us about the first paper you published?

It was published in Animal Behaviour and it came from my undergraduate project with Chris Barnard (BSc supervisor) and his PhD student (Jenny Edwards) at the University of Nottingham. It has the great distinction of having the longest title relative to article word count of any paper I have ever written (or probably anybody else!). It was a short communication entitled: The effects of parasitic infection on the behaviour of an intermediate host: the American cockroach Periplaneta americana infected with the acanthocephalan Moniliformis moniliformis.

What’s your favourite species and why?


KW_IMG_0048c (1)

African armyworm (Spodoptera exempta) caterpillar

African armyworm (Spodoptera exempta) because it is such a boring looking small moth (2cm long and dull brown) yet it can migrate hundreds of kilometres in its short adult life and then its offspring, as caterpillars, are capable of stripping corn field completely bare overnight as they reach densities of up to 1000 caterpillars per square metre! What’s not to like?


Who inspired you most as a student?

The late Chris Barnard when I was an undergraduate at Nottingham University, due to his sheer passion for teaching the subject, as well as Richard Dawkins, whose book “The Extended Phenotype” completely changed my view of animal behaviour and ecology; both of whom led to me writing my first ever publication (see above). Other inspirations were David Attenborough (of course, as is even now), Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey – their books about African animals inspired me to want to follow in their footsteps.

If you could wake up tomorrow with a new skill, what would it be?

To have the molecular biological skills and knowhow that my post-docs and students have. Oh, and to be a decent mathematical modeller.

Are you a good cook? What’s your signature dish?

I cook dinner 3 or 4 times a week and I most enjoy cooking when I can improvise with the ingredients at hand (probably the artist in me). I am not very good at following recipes, so do not really have a signature dish, but probably something involving pasta.

Please share a [funny] story about a paper you had rejected.

It’s never funny when you get rejected, and I try to remember this when rejecting so many of our author’s papers. I always also remember that many of my most cited papers were rejected at least once before they were published – whilst rejection may be the norm, it is usually not terminal.

Ken photo

Ken in his silk tie and luck scarf

What’s your favourite sports team and why?

Liverpool Football Club, of course. As a scouser born and bred, I have been following LFC for longer than I can remember and have been a season ticket holder for more than 20 years. One of the most gut-wrenching days of my entire life, to this day, was when Bill Shankly announced his retirement as manager of LFC back in 1974!

The photo is of me at a Liverpool game wearing a silk tie with the LFC crest made by my former PhD student Emily Adams (note that I don’t usually wear a tie to games, but always do wear my LFC lucky scarf 😊).

If you could recommend one place for people to travel to on holiday, where would it be and why?

Anywhere without internet!

What was the first album you owned?

Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd.

If any fictional character could join your lab, who would it be and why?

Inspector Morse – so he could find out where all my consumable items keep disappearing and who keep breaking the lab autoclave 😊

How many British Ecological Society annual meetings have you attended? Which one was the best?

I have no idea how many, but probably at least twenty. It is difficult to say which one was best because if each one is so very different, but it would have to be one of the meetings pre-Christmas when I was a young post-doc and finally feeling like I belonged and had a wide circle of friends attending. It is also fun being so intimately involved with the Society through its journals. When I refereed my first paper for Journal of Animal Ecology back in 1989 when Roy Taylor was the Editor, I never dreamed that one day I would be doing the same job – it is such an honour! But I would also like to think that the best one is going to be the next.#

Are you attending #BES2018? If so, when is the best opportunity for people to meet you?

Just come grab me at a coffee break – I don’t bite!


Liverpool FC crest on the wall of Anfield. Photo by silver-novice.


Meet the Editor: Ben Sheldon

Ahead of this year’s British Ecological Society Annual Meeting, where you have a chance to meet our Senior Editors, we thought it would be good to get to know the people behind the decision letters. First up is Ben Sheldon.

Ben Sheldon

What can you tell us about the first paper you published?

Sheldon and Duckworth (1990) Rediscovery of the Madagascar Serpent Eagle. Bull Brit.


Madagascan serpent eagle (Eutriorchis Astur). Drawing by J G Keulemans, 1875 Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London

Orn. Club. When I was an undergraduate I was part of a group of students who spent 3 months carrying out faunistic surveys in a remote part of North-east Madagascar. I had the great good fortune to blunder into a settled Madagascar Serpent Eagle one morning – at the time, it was known only from 8 specimens, the last collected in 1930. It’s since turned out to be reasonably widespread, though hard to see, across Eastern Madagascar.

What’s your favourite species and why?

I really don’t have one! I have some fond birding memories (spring passage Pomarine Skua always a pleasure), and recently have been getting pretty keen on moths – mostly in my back garden. But I find pleasure in lots of things – the first migrating meadow pipits and redwings each autumn, the first brimstone butterfly and swift each spring, a carpet of bluebells under oak trees in Wytham Woods near Oxford in April. The list would be long.

Who inspired you most as a student?

I had the tremendous good fortune to be lectured to by Nick Davies on Behavioural Ecology as an undergraduate – he was a great inspiration to me, and many others. I was very pleased to be able to replay him a tiny bit by finding a woodpecker finch tool-using in the Galapagos, and being able to show him a behaviour that he’d never seen.

If you could wake up tomorrow with a new skill, what would it be?

I’d suggest asking my research group which – of many things – they most wish I was able to do for myself.

Are you a good cook? What’s your signature dish?

I think such judgements should be subject to peer review.

Please share a [funny] story about a paper you had rejected.

My first foray into normal academic publishing as a final year PhD student was a paper on sexually transmitted disease in birds, that I sent to Am Nat. It had pretty positive reviews, including some really nice and encouraging comments from Bill Hamilton, but was rejected by the Editor, who is now a member of academic staff in my department. I tease him from time to time about how he could have crushed my fledgling career (but in hindsight think he made the right decision!)

What’s your favourite sports team and why?

I’ve actually always been drawn more to sports events where individuals challenge themselves – long distance endurance events.

If you could recommend one place for people to travel to on holiday, where would it be and why?

This is a hard question to answer without sounding like a total hypocrite. I have been lucky enough to visit some amazing wildlife destinations (Madagascar, Borneo, Galapagos, Ecuador, Svalbard), but most of those trips were before I at least was aware of the complexities of environmental impacts of this kind of travel. Equally wonderful have been shorter distance trips to wilder parts of the UK and Sweden, where part of my family is based (I love Norfolk, Gotland and the Swedish mountains), but the attraction of most of those places for me is the lack of people, so can’t really recommend them! For many years I was a regular visitor to Portland Bird Observatory in Dorset which is one of the best places to see one of the great spectacles of a really big movement of migrating birds. It’s the one place that I most wish I had more time to spend, if work would permit.





What was the first album you owned?

I think it was Queen’s News of the World

If any fictional character could join your lab, who would it be and why?

Seriously would rather real historical characters!

How many British Ecological Society annual meetings have you attended? Which one was the best?

About half a dozen. Loved the recent meeting in Edinburgh, but they have all been so good recently, that I try to convince people it is the meeting not to miss.

Are you attending #BES2018? If so, when is the best opportunity for people to meet you?

Yes. In and around the talks and posters I hope!



Common brimstone butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni). Photo by Charles J Sharp .