Professor Rod Blackshaw

Professor Rod Blackshaw

Emeritus Professor

Faculty of Science & Engineering


Director, Centre for Agricultural and Rural Sustainability


BSc in Agricultural Zoology University of Newcastle upon Tyne

PhD in ecoxicology and soil fauna, University of Newcastle upon Tyne

Employed from 1981 to 1996 as a research scientist, Departmentof Agriculture for Northern Ireland

Moved to the University of Plymouth in 1996 as Head of the Department of Agriculture and Food Studies.

Appointed Dean of the Faculty of Land, Food & Leisure in 2001.

Transfered to the School of Biological Sciences in 2003.

Professional membership

Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society

Board Member, Soil Ecology Society

Roles on external bodies


Current activities:
1. Member of Sustainable Arable LINK Programme Management Committee (1998 - ). Advises DEFRA, SERAD and   BBSRC on research funding allocation. Monitor progress of projects.

2. Proposal & programme reviewer for DEFRA.

3. Proposal Reviewer, BBSRC

4. Proposal Reviewer Technology Strategy Board

6. Project evaluator ESRC (RELU)

7. Proposal Reviewer Norwegian Research Council

8. Referee for various journals

Past activities:
1.Member, Research and Education Advisory Panel Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for Northern Irealnd (2006 - 2009 ).  

2. Invited Reviewer, DEFRA Arable Zoology and Pest Management Programme (2004).

3. Visiting Group Member, DEFRA Central Sciences Laboratory (2001)

4. Invited Contributor, CABI Pest Compendium CD-Rom Database (2000)

5. Invited Member MAFF Plant Health Research Review Group (1999)

6. Invited Reviewer, Scottish Office Plant Sciences Research Programme (1999)

7. Council member of Royal Entomological Society (1996-1999; 2008-2011)

Teaching interests

Integrated pest management, invertebrate ecology.

Staff serving as external examiners

External Examiner, Environmental Science, Nottingham Trent University

Research interests

Research activities fit under two broad headings:

INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT The majority of pest managment practices have hardly evolved since the concept of Integrated Control first emerged in the 1960s. They remain centred on managment practices directed against target pests in crops, using the field as the key managment unit. My research is directed towards unravelling the broader ecology of pest species, understanding how they function within agricultural landscapes, and identifying new intervention points to reduce damaging population levels. Much of this research has been directed towards the spatio-temporal behaviours and distributions of organisms, but more recent work has revealed that although monitoring is a recognised key activity in pest management, direct interpretation of trap counts is challenging because we have no means of separating density and activity components of counts. Thus much of my current activity is directed towards understanding the behaviour of individuals around traps, and the interpretation of this using mathematical models, working with Dr Sergei Petrovskii at Leicester University. 

SOIL BIOLOGY In collaboration with Dr Phil Murray of Rothamsted, North Wyke we have developed new methods of tracking the flow of carbon and nitrogen through soil food webs. This work has shown that in soil food webs omnivorous animals may be functionally selective so that they can occur in different trophic levels, and that previously assumed functional/trophic ideas underestimate the complexity. This remains an on-going research interest. Spatial ecology also plays a part in understanding how soils operate as biological systems. Research into this aspect is being addressed through the development of novel sampling methods and the development of theoretical understanding of how complex physical environments affect animal movement behaviours.

The current team comprises 1 PDRA, and 4 PhD and 1 ResM students:
1. Susan Morris - dynamics of rare arable weeds (with Dr Miguel Franco).
2. Ayano Saski-Crawley - behaviour of potato cyst nematodes and potential trap crops (with Prof John Pickett, Rothamsted Harpenden)
3. Jenny Williams - dispersal of soil mesofauna (with Dr Phil Murray, Rothamsted North Wyke)
4. Nawzad kadir - effects of soil biodiversity on plant-herbivore interactions (with Dr Mick Hanley)
5. Karzan D. Ahmed - spatial distribution of soil insects (with Dr Phil Murray, Rothamsted North Wyke)

6. Dr Carly Benefer - Theoretical and experimental understanding of insect trapping systems (with Dr Sergei Petrovskii, University of leicester).

 Active external collaborators are Dr Bob Vernon (Agriculture and AgriFood Canada), Dr Sergei Petrovskii (University of Leicester), Dr Dan Peck (Corvallis University) .


Other research

Additional information

External Voluntary Work:

Chair, Dartmoor National Park Authority Standards Committee