Faculty of Biological Sciences

Prof Tim Benton

BA, Oxford, PhD 1990, Cambridge, FSB, FLS
Professor of Population Ecology; UK Champion for Global Food Security and Professor of Population Ecology
School of Biology

Background: The severe environmental challenges of the 21st Century are summarised by John Beddington's term "The Perfect Storm" and involves producing more food for the growing global population, whilst coping with climate change, reduction in carbon usage, and by not simply using more land. My interests focus around how we can do this most "sustainably". My research career has been focussed on the linkage between organisms and environmental changes, and my research in the agri-environment sphere also focusses on how farming drives ecological dynamics (at field, landscape and larger scales, up to global). I am also interested in food system resilience under climate threats. I have used a variety of techniques through my career (including field and lab work, statistical, numerical and analytical modelling) and have held positions at UEA (postdoc), Cambridge University Press (Science Editor), Stirling University (lecturer and Senior Lecturer), Aberdeen University (Senior Lecturer) and Leeds (Professor, 2005, Director of the Institute of Integrative and Comparative Biology (2005 -2007), Pro-Dean for Research (2007-2011). From 2011, I have been UK Champion for Global Food Security, acting as ambassador and spokesperson for matters to do with food and food security, and coordinating work across this area between research councils and government departments. I am currently Dean for Strategic Research Initiatives at Leeds and a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House. I work also as a Global Agenda Steward for the World Economic Forum.

Contact:  Manton 8.06, +44(0) 113 34 32886, email address for  

You can read more about Prof Benton's interests here:

Research Interests

Food Security, Population, evolutionary and conservation ecology

The world is changing rapidly leading to pressures on existing ecosystems. I am interested in how ecological systems underpin the services on which we rely, and how they respond to change. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that ecosystem services are preserved in the face of change.

My research work is very diverse, but involves three prime strands:

  • empirical research working in the field. I am involved in “sustainable agriculture” projects in the UK and overseas,
  • using model species in the laboratory to elucidate fundamental biological mechanisms. I have worked extensively on soil mites to understand the link between an individual’s current (and past) environments and the life-history (and therefore the population dynamics) that result. The mite model has also been instrumental in understanding phenotypic plasticity, maternal effects, dispersal behaviour and the impacts of harvesting,
  • developing mathematical & or statistical models (based on time series data, or mechanistic understanding). These models have been used to explore the interaction of environmental change – whether climate change or e.g. harvest pressure - and population dynamics (or biodiversity), or predict population trends. I have also applied these techniques to analysing patterns in the fossil record.

Faculty Research and Innovation

Studentship information

Postgraduate studentship areas:

  • farming/ecology interactions; population and evolutionary dynamics; dispersal

See also:

Centre membership: The Earth and Biosphere Institute

Group Leader Prof Tim Benton  (Professor of Population Ecology; UK Champion for Global Food Security and Professor of Population Ecology)

Food Security, Population, evolutionary and conservation ecology 

Dr Katherine Arundell  (Research Fellow)

Dr Ute Bradter  (Visiting Research Fellow)


Lawrence Akanyang (Co-supervisor) 30% FTE
Pierre Moorsom (Co-supervisor) 20% FTE