Professor of Insect Chemical Ecology, Keele University

Having always been fascinated by nature and the environment, I studied Biology at University College London. Through my studies I became aware that biology and ecology can play a vital role in safeguarding harvests from attack by pests. My undergraduate project was on insect pests of rice and their natural enemies in Malaysia. I completed an M.Sc. in Applied Entomology at Silwood Park, Imperial College London and a Ph.D. in Chemical Ecology at the Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich. My PhD thesis was on the role of olfaction in host location by the cotton bollworm, Helicoverpa armigera, with lab studies in the UK and field studies in Israel and Pakistan.

Agriculture interests me because of the vital role it plays in global food security and the opportunities for reducing our environmental footprint through more efficient farming practices. I joined Rothamsted Research, an organisation that pioneered using science to benefit agriculture, as a Research Scientist in 2000. My role was to study agriculturally important insects, their interactions with their host plants and their natural enemies; seeking novel interventions that could improve pest management and reduce dependency on pesticides. For example, I helped to develop improved management of orange wheat blossom midge, Sitodiplosis mosellana, based on resistant wheat varieties and pheromone traps to rationalise insecticide use and evaluated transgenic wheat engineered to release the aphid alarm pheromone. We have had a very successful collaboration with scientists at icipe in Kenya.

orange wheat blossom midge

I obtained a scientific merit promotion to Senior Research Scientist at Rothamsted in 2007. I gained university teaching experience from guest lectures at several UK and European universities and enjoy teaching. I successfully supervised PhD students in outstanding and highly cited research. In 2012, I became Convenor of the Association of Applied Biologists Biocontrol and IPM group, a visiting Professor at the University of Greenwich and a visiting Lecturer at the University of Nottingham. In 2016, I became editor-in-chief of the journal Physiological Entomology and co-editor of Annals of Applied Biology.

The newly formed Bruce group at Keele is conducting cutting-edge research on insect-host interactions and testing hypotheses to better understand how to sustainably manage pest species and conserve beneficial species. Our group is advancing science on major global pests of agriculture. The species we work with are notorious for their ability to evolve insecticide resistance and new sustainable but effective options for their management are urgently needed.

Experience

  • 2017–present
    Professor, Keele University
  • 2000–2017
    Senior research scientist, Rothamsted Research