Who am I?
My name is Simon Leather. I am an applied entomologist, but by that I don’t mean someone who can identify a huge number of species. I am not a taxonomist. Rather, I am a competent field entomologist who can recognise most insects to Order, some Orders to Family and within some families I am able to recognise individual species, especially if they are of economic importance. I fell in love with insects when I was a child in Jamaica, and discovered the complexity of ant societies, although I was also a great fan of crab spiders.
From the very beginning I was much more interested in how insects worked and behaved rather than in collecting and pinning them. My first degree from Leeds University, is in a subject that is no longer taught, Agricultural Zoology, essentially parasitology and entomology related to agriculture. It was at Leeds, in my second year, that I fell in love with aphids. My PhD at the University of East Anglia, was on the ecology of the bird-cherry-oat aphid Rhopalosiphum padi.
I then did a post-doc, courtesy of the Royal Society, in Finland, developing a prediction system for R.padi, followed by a short post-doc back at UEA before a ten year stint with the Forestry Commission where I worked on the pine beauty moth, Panolis flammea and the large pine weevil, Hylobius abietis as well as doing advisory work and supervising research students. This was followed by twenty years at Imperial College, based at their Silwood Park campus where I worked on agricultural, horticultural and forest pests. I also conducted a twenty year study on the herbivores associated with sycamore trees and discovered the joy of urban ecology. I have been Professor of Entomology at Harper Adams University in Shropshire, since September 2012. For my full academic profile follow this link http://www.harper-adams.ac.uk/staff/profile.cfm?id=201220
I have been the Editor of EntoPath News, Antenna, and Ecological Entomology and am currently one of the Senior Editors of Insect Conservation & Diversity. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1752-4598
I am also the Editor-in-Chief of Annals of Applied Biology and an Associate Editor of Agricultural & Forest Entomology, Ecological Entomology and until 2014, Journal of Animal Ecology. I have also written and edited a number of books that don’t make me a lot of money.
Despite all this, I still manage to get out into the field once in a while, although you may not always recognize me 🙂
I am also a bit of a genealogist and my wife and I founded the Leather Family History Society http://leatherfamilyhistory.org/ in 1991.
I love teaching and outreach, and am deeply concerned about the way most people do not interact with nature and think that the animal kingdom is mainly vertebrate with fur and feathers, hence my decision to start a blog. My favourite quote about being a scientist comes from Sweet Thursday one of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row novels and is spoken by Doc, a marine biologist and goes like this “I want to take everything I’ve seen and thought and learned and reduce them and relate them and refine them until I have something of meaning, something of use“.
I sort of blogged back in the early 1980s, before the World Wide Web existed within a chat group hosted by the Edinburgh University intranet. I used to post stories of my tropical experiences. I also did a blog for a week as part of National Insect Week 2010. To prevent me becoming ponderous and pompous, I try and limit myself to 2000 words a post, a sort of macro-micro-blog. I will, however, occasionally treat myself to more, but will never exceed 3000 words. I mainly post on aphids, Aphidology; things that annoy me, Bugbears; things of general entomological interest, EntoNotes; urban ecology and conservation, Roundabouts and more; teaching and outreach, Teaching Matters; occasionally genealogy, Roots; and whatever else occurs to me, The Bloggy Blog. Opinions are my own and any comments are very welcome.
As part of my outreach activities I am very willing to give talks (ranging in length from 30 minutes to an hour) on a number of subjects:
Birds, Bugs and Roundabouts – urban biodiversity and conservation
Biodiversity – what does it mean
Influential Entomology – Insect in Art, Literature, Economics, Engineering, Science and Medicine
The Good, the Bad and the Plain Just Wrong – Insects in children’s literature
Everything you wanted to know about aphids but were afraid to ask
Current and Future Threats to UK Forestry
Running a One-Name Society
As I consider outreach to be part of my job, I do not charge anything except my travel expenses (although a reasonably priced bottle of red wine is always welcome*). I am willing to travel up to 25 miles or so from Harper Adams University. I am willing to travel outside the blue circle but that may involve an overnight stay for which which I would have to charge.
*preferably a Shiraz or Fitou 🙂