Prof Pat Willmer

Research interests

  1. Environmental Physiology of Invertebrates.
    Water balance and osmoregulation in insects. Thermal physiology in relation to microclimate and behaviour, especially in bees and other terrestrial and littoral invertebrates.
  2. Insect-Plant Interactions.
    Pollination ecology. Interactions between pollinators, pests and predators.
    Insects as pests on crop plants, and interactions with crop microclimates. Ant deterrence in flowers.
  3. Animal behaviour, especially social insects.
    Ecology and behaviour of insects, specifically insect-plant interactions and pollination ecology. The constraints acting on pollinators, especially bees, in temperate and arid systems.
  4. Invertebrate Evolution and Convergent Evolution.
    Invertebrate morphology and fossils; the evolution of basic body plans, and the prevalence of convergent evolution; implications for phylogenetic approaches.

Current work

Prof Willmer has been awarded a NERC grant of ~£700,000 to work on pollination networks; incorporating measures of individual pollinator effectiveness to see how true pollination networks differ from existing visitation networks, and how this affects our understanding of major pollinator conservation issues.

The work (with some collaboration with network experts in Bristol) includes fieldwork in Dorset, Israel and Kenya, with Dr Ballantyne as the post-doctoral researcher.

Previous projects

1. Royal Society: (£9.5K, 1998-2000).

Work at Mpala in Kenya on ant-pollen interactions, with Dr G Stone, Edinburgh.

2. NERC: (£163K plus tied studentship £30K, 1998-2001)

Work on Biodiversity of bees in Israel and threats to pollinating communities from fire, grazing and non-native introduced bees (more details below).

3. NERC: (£16.5K, 1998-2001)

Work in East Africa and in Mexico on Acacia pollination systems and small scale (diurnal) resource partitioning; with Dr G Stone, Edinburgh.

4. British Council: (£5K approx, 1993-1998)

An ongoing scheme, at least 5 years, with funding as requested each year. Joint with University of Nottingham and University of Suez Canal. Six visits in each direction each year, plus longer visits to the UK by Egyptian scientists to learn new techniques.

5. Royal Society: (£10K).

An ongoing project involving studies on bees and wasps at different sites of varying latitude within Britain. The aim is to analyse morphological and colour clines within species that relate to observed differences in thermal biology, and may thus in their turn influence behavioural patterns. Physiological influences on foraging and reproductive strategies are of particular interest.

6. Royal Geographical Society, 1996

Funded visit to Mkomazi, Tanzania, research on Acacia diversity and pollination.

7. AFRC: (£83K, 3 years, 1990-93).

In collaboration with the Scottish Crop Research Institute. This work involved the application of environmental physiology to understanding (and potentially manipulating) the distributions and interactions of insects on crops. I worked with raspberry crops, analysing water balance and temperature balance of pests (aphids, beetles and moths), of predatory and parasitic insects that might help to control them (coccinellids, hover-flies, and aphidophagous parasitoids), and of pollinating bees and flies. These studies established their different physiological constraints, and could be related to conditions within the crop and hence to insect distributions and movements. The aim was to find ways of manipulating plant architecture and thus microclimate in ways that favoured the beneficial insects at the expense of the crop pests. One particular treatment proved efficacious and can be recommended for further testing and then to growers. Two papers published, one in press, three in prep, and at least three more planned.

8. AFRC: (£18K, 7 months, 1994).

An extension to the above programme to allow an extra summer of fieldwork, following up new angles on plant chemicals and insect pheromones.

9. Royal Society: (£3K, 1992).

Funding for a research visit to the Sinai in Egypt, for 3 weeks, resulting in three papers.

 

Contact 

Professor Pat Willmer
School of Biology
Bute Medical Buildings
St Andrews
Fife
KY16 9TS
United Kingdom

Telephone: 01334 463507
Email: p.g.willmer@st-andrews.ac.uk