Dr Christopher Hassall

BSc, University of Liverpool; PhD, University of Liverpool.
Lecturer in Animal Biology
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:

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.


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 managed

BLGY5117M - Introduction to GIS Skills for Ecologists

Modules taught

BLGY1128 - Living Planet
BLGY1303 - Tutorials for Biology and Genetics
BLGY2301 - Research Experience and Skills Level 2
BLGY2313/5156M - Mediterranean Ecology Field Course
BLGY3247 - Advanced Topics in Conservation Science
BLGY5107M - Biodiversity and Conservation Skills I
BLGY5116M - Habitat Management
BLGY5117M - Introduction to GIS Skills for Ecologists
BLGY5191M - Biodiversity and Conservation MSc and MRes Summer Project
BLGY5380M - Extended Research Project

Academic roles

PGR Admissions Tutor - School of Biology


Member of Graduate School Committee (Admissions Tutor (SB))

Group Leader Dr Christopher Hassall  (Lecturer in Animal Biology )


Oloyede Adekolurejo (Primary supervisor) 60% FTE
Myrna Barjau Pérez Milicua (Primary supervisor) 40% FTE
Carrie Easter (Primary supervisor) 70% FTE
Zak Mitchell (Primary supervisor) 50% FTE
Rebecca Robertson (Primary supervisor) 34% FTE
Sonja Wild (Co-supervisor) 20% FTE
Robert Williams (Primary supervisor) 50% FTE
Jonathan Carruthers-Jones (Co-supervisor) 25% FTE
Thomas Dally (Co-supervisor) 20% FTE
Daniel Warren (Co-supervisor) 50% FTE

Thornhill IA, Biggs J, Hill MJ, Briers R, Gledhill D, Wood PJ, Gee JHR, Ledger M, Hassall C The functional response and resilience in small waterbodies along land-use and environmental gradients Global Change Biology 24 3079-3092, 2018
View abstract

Kelly LA, Hassall C The spatial ecology of phytoplankton blooms in UK canals Inland Waters, 2018

Shannon C, Quinn CH, Stebbing PD, Hassall C, Dunn AM The practical application of hot water to reduce the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive alien species Management of Biological Invasions, 2018
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Ziv G, Hassall C, Bartkowski B, Cord AF, Kaim A, Kalamandeen M, Landaverde-González P, Melo JLB, Seppelt R, Shannon C, Václavík T, Zoderer BM, Beckmann M A bird's eye view over ecosystem services in Natura 2000 sites across Europe Ecosystem Services 30 287-298, 2018
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Bojko J, Stentiford GD, Stebbing PD, Hassall C, Deacon A, Cargill B, Pile B, Dunn AM Pathogens of Dikerogammarus haemobaphes regulate host activity and survival, but also threaten native amphipod populations in the UK Diseases of Aquatic Organisms, 2018
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Hill MJ, Biggs J, Thornhill I, Briers RA, Ledger M, Gledhill DG, Wood PJ, Hassall C Community heterogeneity of aquatic macroinvertebrates in urban ponds at a multi-city scale Landscape Ecology 33 389-405, 2018
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Hill MJ, Hassall C, Oertli B, Fahrig L, Robson BJ, Biggs J, Samways MJ, Usio N, Takamura N, Krishnaswamy J, Wood PJ New policy directions for global pond conservation Conservation Letters, 2018
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Villalobos-Jiménez G, Dunn AM, Hassall C Environmental noise reduces predation rate in an aquatic invertebrate Journal of Insect Conservation 21 839-847, 2017
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Ross SRPJ, Hassall C, Hoppitt WJE, Edwards FA, Edwards DP, Hamer KC Incorporating intraspecific trait variation into functional diversity: Impacts of selective logging on birds in Borneo Methods in Ecology and Evolution 8 1499-1505, 2017
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Hassall C, Owen J, Gilbert F Phenological shifts in hoverflies (Diptera: Syrphidae): linking measurement and mechanism Ecography 40 853-863, 2017
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Villalobos-Jiménez G, Hassall C Effects of the urban heat island on the phenology of Odonata in London, UK International Journal of Biometeorology 61 1337-1346, 2017
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León FR, Hassall C UV radiation is associated with latitudinal trends in cognitive ability of white children in the USA Journal of Individual Differences 38 155-162, 2017
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Kenna D, Fincham WNW, Dunn AM, Brown LE, Hassall C Antagonistic effects of biological invasion and environmental warming on detritus processing in freshwater ecosystems Oecologia 183 875-886, 2017
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Lorenzo-Carballa MO, Hassall C, Encalada AC, Sanmartín-Villar I, Torres-Cambas Y, Cordero-Rivera A Parthenogenesis did not consistently evolve in insular populations of Ischnura hastata (Odonata, Coenagrionidae) Ecological Entomology 42 67-76, 2017
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Hassall C, Amaro R, Ondina P, Outeiro A, Cordero-Rivera A, San Miguel E Population-level variation in senescence suggests an important role for temperature in an endangered mollusc Journal of Zoology 301 32-40, 2017
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Hassall C, Lewis DI Institutional and technological barriers to the use of open educational resources (OERs) in physiology and medical education Advances in Physiology Education 41 77-81, 2017
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Hill MJ, Biggs J, Thornhill I, Briers RA, Gledhill DG, White JC, Wood PJ, Hassall C Urban ponds as an aquatic biodiversity resource in modified landscapes. Glob Chang Biol 23 986-999, 2016
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Hassall C, Hill M, Gledhill D, Biggs J The ecology and management of urban pondscapes In Urban Landscape Ecology: Science, Policy and Practice, 2016

Villalobos-Jiménez G, Dunn AM, Hassall C Dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata) in urban ecosystems: A review European Journal of Entomology 113 217-232, 2016
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Moore CD, Hassall C A bee or not a bee: an experimental test of acoustic mimicry by hoverflies BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY 27 1767-1774, 2016

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
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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
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Hassall C Odonata as candidate macroecological barometers for global climate change Freshwater Science 34 1040-1049, 2015
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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

Hassall C, Anderson S Stormwater ponds can contain comparable biodiversity to unmanaged wetlands in urban areas Hydrobiologia 745 137-149, 2015
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Hassall C Strong geographical variation in wing aspect ratio of a damselfly, Calopteryx maculata (Odonata: Zygoptera) PeerJ 2015, 2015
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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

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
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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
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Hassall C The ecology and biodiversity of urban ponds Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water 1 187-206, 2014
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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
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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
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Webster RJ, Hassall C, Herdman CM, Godin J-GJ, Sherratt TN Disruptive camouflage impairs object recognition. Biol Lett 9 20130501-, 2013
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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
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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
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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
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Hassall C Time stress and temperature explain continental variation in damselfly body size Ecography 36 894-903, 2013
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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Hassall C, Sherratt TN Statistical inference and spatial patterns in correlates of IQ Intelligence 39 303-310, 2011
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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
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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

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
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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
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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

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
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Hassall C Environment Strategy and Action Plans: Progress Made (Research Paper), 2009
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Hassall C, Thompson DJ, Harvey IF Variation in morphology between core and marginal populations of three British damselflies Aquatic Insects 31 187-197, 2009

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 The impacts of environmental warming on Odonata: a review International Journal of Odonatology 11 131-153, 2008
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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
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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, FRENCH GC, HARVEY IF Historical changes in the phenology of British Odonata are related to climate Global Change Biology 13 933-941, 2007