Faculty of Biological Sciences

Dr Christopher Hassall

BSc, University of Liverpool; PhD, University of Liverpool.
Marie Curie Fellow
School of Biology

Background: 2015-present Marie Curie Fellow, University of Leeds; 2012-present Lecturer, University of Leeds; 2010-2012 Postdoctoral Fellow, Carleton University; 2009-2010 Postdoctoral Fellow, Carleton University; 2005-2009 PhD, University of Liverpool; 2002-2005 BSc (Hons) Zoology, University of Liverpool.

Contact:  Manton 8.04, +44(0) 113 3435578, email address for  

You can read more about Dr Hassall's interests here:
www.christopherhassall.com

Biological responses to global change

My primary interests lie in the biological impacts of (i) climate change and (ii) urbanisation. My work investigates changing geographical (distributions) and temporal (phenology) patterns of species occurrence using historical datasets.  It is vital to evaluate the capacity of different species to respond to environmental change, as those species that cannot respond face an uncertain future.  Principally I have used insects (Odonata, Hymenoptera, and Syrphidae) as well as mammals as model systems for investigating these topics.

Key papers:


Freshwater ecology and conservation

Freshwater comprises only a very small proportion of all the water on earth but is vital to the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems.  My research focuses on the ecology of ponds (lentic water bodies with an area <2ha), which dominate many landscapes and contribute an enormous amount of biodiversity to the regional species pool.  Despite their great number and importance, these small habitats are relatively poorly understood both in terms of what drives their biodiversity and how that diversity changes over time. One interesting aspect of ponds is their use to provide ecosystem services (flood control, pollution reduction, aesthetics) in urban areas. My research focuses on how these services can be maintained or enhanced while also maximising the contribution of urban ponds to urban biodiversity.

Key papers:


Evolution of insects

Alongside my ecological research, I am involved in work on a number of evolutionary topics. It has often been said that wild animals (and insects in particular) do not live long enough to experience aging in the wild. I have been involved in work that has demonstrated that wild damselfly populations do show aging in the wild. I am also involved in work on the evolution of mimicry, using the hoverflies (Diptera: Syrphidae) that mimic stinging bees and wasps (Hymenoptera) as a model system.  Finally, I am interested in the ways that form and function interact with the environment in the case of insect flight.

Key papers:


Application of technology to teaching

As well as scientific research, I maintain a funded program of research on pedagogical advances in “blended learning” – the application of technology to complement face-to-face teaching. Particular areas of interest include identifying and breaking down barriers to the use of technology, and testing the effectiveness of teaching interventions.


Collaborations

My work involves collaborations across the University of Leeds, where I am based in the Ecology and Evolution Research Group.  I am also an active member of Water@Leeds - a research hub containing 150 researchers focusing on all aspects of water research.  I am also an active member of the University of Leeds Biology Education Research Group (ULBERG), which leads pedagogical innovation within the faculty. I maintain collaborations with the Institute of Psychological Sciences, where I work with psychologists to use humans as model systems to investigate evolutionary questions.  Finally, I collaborate extensively with staff in the School of Geography to answer landscape scale environmental questions concerning the ecology of freshwaters.


 

 

Current Projects

Ecology and Evolution of Mimicry in a Changing World (Funder: EU)

My current research focus involves testing fundamental hypotheses concerning how and when some organisms evolve to mimic other organisms, and (more interestingly) when mimicry is imperfect. The work involves studies of the degree of mimetic similarity shown by harmless, Batesian mimics (with a focus on hover flies, Diptera: Syrphidae) to the harmful animals that they resemble in terms of both morphological and behavioural mimicry, quantified using a variety of approaches. These projects integrate my interests in the evolution and the ecology of these systems, to build a picture of how ecological processes (such as the responses of mimics and models to climate change) may influence eco-evolutionary interactions.


Thermal microclimates in aquatic ecosystems (Funder: Royal Society)

The importance of microclimates has been recognized in terrestrial systems, but there has been little study of aquatic microclimates. However, understanding how temperature varies at small scales in freshwater systems is essential to understanding ecosystem function and the diversity of aquatic organisms. There are also important implications for the distribution of semi-aquatic disease vectors, which require certain thermal thresholds for development. This project uses a drone to image freshwater landscapes in order to test for the effects on macroinvertebrate community structure and function. While my past work has focused on large scale patterns in phenological and distributional change, this new project is testing hypotheses at the centimeter scale.


Electronic Resources in Physiology Education (Funder: Physiological Society)

The shift in emphasis from lecturers as the “sage on the stage” to the “guide at the side” has led to the development of substantial online resources to support novel pedagogical techniques. However, the use of these resources is hindered by a series of barriers: teachers may not be aware of the resources, may not have the knowledge to use them, or may not be able to identify opportunities to use them. This project focuses on quantifying these 1st, 2nd, and 3rd order barriers to the use of online resources in physiology education, and identifying solutions that can enhance physiology education.


Social Media in Higher Education (Funder: University of Leeds)

Social media offer a valuable opportunity to provide a network for students and teachers, both within and outside of the classroom. However, there are often different degrees of comfort with these tools and staff may be completely unfamiliar with many newer platforms. Furthermore, students may be unwilling to share what they see as a “private” space with their university lecturers. This project is designed to evaluate the attitudes of staff and students to different social media in order to produce a toolkit that is both pedagogically appropriate and has the support of both learners and educators.


 

 

Faculty Research and Innovation



Studentship information

Undergraduate project topics:

  • Aquatic invertebrate community ecology
  • Terrestrial insect ecology
  • Evolution of mimicry and camouflage
  • Insect morphology and function
  • Climate change impacts on biological systems
  • Urban ecology
  • Environmental attitudes
  • Educational research

Postgraduate studentship areas:

  • Insect flight ecology
  • Ecology of freshwaters
  • Evolution of mimicry and camouflage
  • Biological impacts of global change
  • Urban ecology and socio-ecology
  • Environmental attitudes

See also:

Modules taught

BLGY2100/2301 - Level 2 Tutorials
BLGY5107M - Biodiversity and Conservation Skills I
BLGY5191M - Biodiversity and Conservation MSc and MRes Summer Project

Villalobos-Jiménez G, Dunn AM, Hassall C Dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata) in urban ecosystems: A review European Journal of Entomology 113 217-232, 2016
DOI:10.14411/eje.2016.027
View abstract

Hassall C, Sherratt TN, Watts PC, Thompson DJ Live fast, die old: No evidence of reproductive senescence or costs of mating in a damselfly (Odonata: Zygoptera) Journal of Animal Ecology 84 1542-1554, 2015
DOI:10.1111/1365-2656.12407
View abstract

Nicholson DJ, Hassall C, Frazier JA Comparison of a native and a non-native insular reptile species Journal of Tropical Ecology 31 563-566, 2015
DOI:10.1017/S0266467415000462
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Bried JT, Hassall C, Simaika JP, Corser JD, Ware J Directions in dragonfly applied ecology and conservation science Freshwater Science 34 1020-1022, 2015
DOI:10.1086/682393

Hassall C Odonata as candidate macroecological barometers for global climate change Freshwater Science 34 1040-1049, 2015
DOI:10.1086/682210
View abstract

Hassall C Strong geographical variation in wing aspect ratio of a damselfly, Calopteryx maculata (Odonata: Zygoptera) PeerJ 2015 -, 2015
DOI:10.7717/peerj.1219
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Hassall C, Anderson S Stormwater ponds can contain comparable biodiversity to unmanaged wetlands in urban areas Hydrobiologia 745 137-149, 2015
DOI:10.1007/s10750-014-2100-5
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Noble A, Hassall C Poor ecological quality of urban ponds in northern England: causes and consequences URBAN ECOSYSTEMS 18 649-662, 2014
DOI:10.1007/s11252-014-0422-8

Fraser D, Hassall C, Gorelick R, Rybczynski N Mean Annual Precipitation Explains Spatiotemporal Patterns of Cenozoic Mammal Beta Diversity and Latitudinal Diversity Gradients in North America PLOS ONE 9 -, 2014
DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0106499
View abstract

Easley JL, Hassall C Field estimates of survival do not reflect ratings of mimetic similarity in wasp-mimicking hover flies Evolutionary Ecology 28 387-396, 2014
DOI:10.1007/s10682-013-9678-3
View abstract

Hassall C The ecology and biodiversity of urban ponds Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water 1 187-206, 2014
DOI:10.1002/wat2.1014
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Penney HD, Hassall C, Skevington JH, Lamborn B, Sherratt TN The relationship between morphological and behavioral mimicry in hover flies (Diptera: Syrphidae). The American Naturalist 183 281-289, 2014
DOI:10.1086/674612
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Hassall C Continental variation in wing pigmentation in Calopteryx damselflies is related to the presence of heterospecifics. PeerJ 2 e438-, 2014
DOI:10.7717/peerj.438
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Hassall C Time stress and temperature explain continental variation in damselfly body size Ecography 36 894-903, 2013
DOI:10.1111/j.1600-0587.2013.00018.x
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Hassall C “Going green”: self-archiving as a means for dissemination of research output in ecology and evolution Ideas in Ecology and Evolution 5 93-98, 2013
DOI:10.4033/iee.2012.5b.18.f
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Hossie TH, Hassall C, Knee W, Sherratt TN Species with a chemical defense, but not chemical offense, live longer Journal of Evolutionary Biology 26 1598-1602, 2013
DOI:10.1111/jeb.12143
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Hassall C, Keat S, Thompson DJ, Watts PC Bergmann's rule is maintained during a rapid range expansion in a damselfly Glob Change Biol 20 475-482, 2013
DOI:10.1111/gcb.12340
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Webster RJ, Hassall C, Herdman CM, Godin JG, Sherratt TN Disruptive camouflage impairs object recognition. Biol Lett 9 20130501-, 2013
DOI:10.1098/rsbl.2013.0501
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Mlynarek JJ, Hassall C, Forbes MR Higher gregarine parasitism often in sibling species of host damselflies with smaller geographical distributions Ecological Entomology 37 419-425, 2012
DOI:10.1111/j.1365-2311.2012.01381.x
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Hassall C Predicting the distributions of under-recorded Odonata using species distribution models Insect Conservation and Diversity 5 192-201, 2012
DOI:10.1111/j.1752-4598.2011.00150.x
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Penney HD, Hassall C, Skevington JH, Abbott KR, Sherratt TN A comparative analysis of the evolution of imperfect mimicry Nature 483 461-464, 2012
DOI:10.1038/nature10961
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Hassall C, Hollinshead J, Hull A Temporal dynamics of aquatic communities and implications for pond conservation Biodiversity and Conservation 21 829-852, 2012
DOI:10.1007/s10531-011-0223-9
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Hassall C, Thompson DJ Study design and mark-recapture estimates of dispersal: A case study with the endangered damselfly Coenagrion mercuriale Journal of Insect Conservation 16 111-120, 2012
DOI:10.1007/s10841-011-9399-2
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Hassall C, Hollinshead J, Hull A Environmental correlates of plant and invertebrate species richness in ponds Biodiversity and Conservation 20 3189-3222, 2011
DOI:10.1007/s10531-011-0142-9
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Hassall C, Sherratt TN Statistical inference and spatial patterns in correlates of IQ Intelligence 39 303-310, 2011
DOI:10.1016/j.intell.2011.05.001
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Thompson DJ, Hassall C, Lowe CD, Watts PC Field estimates of reproductive success in a model insect: behavioural surrogates are poor predictors of fitness Ecology Letters 14 905-913, 2011
DOI:10.1111/j.1461-0248.2011.01655.x
View abstract

Sherratt TN, Hassall C, Laird RA, Thompson DJ, Cordero-Rivera A A comparative analysis of senescence in adult damselflies and dragonflies (Odonata) Journal of Evolutionary Biology 24 810-822, 2011
DOI:10.1111/j.1420-9101.2010.02222.x

Hassall C, Lowe CD, Harvey IF, Watts PC, Thompson DJ Phenology determines seasonal variation in ectoparasite loads in a natural insect population Ecological Entomology 35 514-522, 2010
DOI:10.1111/j.1365-2311.2010.01210.x
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Hassall C, Thompson DJ Accounting for recorder effort in the detection of range shifts from historical data Methods in Ecology and Evolution 1 343-350, 2010
DOI:10.1111/j.2041-210X.2010.00039.x
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Sherratt TN, Laird RA, Hassall C, Lowe CD, Harvey IF, Watts PC, Cordero-Rivera A, Thompson DJ Empirical evidence of senescence in adult damselflies (Odonata: Zygoptera) Journal of Animal Ecology 79 1034-1044, 2010
DOI:10.1111/j.1365-2656.2010.01719.x

Hassall C, Thompson DJ, Harvey IF The impact of climate-induced distributional changes on the validity of biological water quality metrics Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 160 451-456, 2010
DOI:10.1007/s10661-008-0709-4
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Hassall C Environment Strategy and Action Plans: Progress Made (Research Paper), 2009
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Hassall C, Thompson DJ Variation in wing spot size and asymmetry of the Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens (Harris, 1780) Journal of the British Dragonfly Society 25 7-15, 2009

Hassall C, Thompson DJ, Harvey IF Variation in morphology between core and marginal populations of three British damselflies Aquatic Insects 31 187-197, 2009
DOI:10.1080/01650420902776708

Hassall C, Thompson DJ Latitudinal variation in morphology in two sympatric damselfly species with contrasting range dynamics (Odonata: Coenagrionidae) European Journal of Entomology 105 939-944, 2008

Hassall C, Thompson DJ, Harvey IF Wings of Coenagrion puella vary in shape at the northern range margin (Odonata: Coenagrionidae) International Journal of Odonatology 11 35-41, 2008
DOI:10.1080/13887890.2008.9748310
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Hassall C, Thompson DJ The impacts of environmental warming on Odonata: a review International Journal of Odonatology 11 131-153, 2008
DOI:10.1080/13887890.2008.9748319
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Hassall C, Thompson DJ, French GC, Harvey IF Historical changes in the phenology of British Odonata are related to climate Global Change Biology 13 933-941, 2007
DOI:10.1111/j.1365-2486.2007.01318.x
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Hassall C, Owen J, Gilbert F Phenological shifts in hoverflies (Diptera: Syrphidae): linking measurement and mechanism Ecography -,
DOI:10.1111/ecog.02623
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Moore CD, Hassall C A bee or not a bee: an experimental test of 1 acoustic mimicry by hoverflies Behavioral Ecology -,
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