Research Profile - Dr Sarah Beynon


I am an insect ecologist and agricultural conservation biologist, with a particular interest in researching sustainable agricultural practices which maintain optimal invertebrate biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.


2008-2013 Jesus College, University of Oxford: DPhil (doctorate): ‘Factors affecting ecosystem service provision from dung-associated invertebrates’

2002-2005 Wadham College, University of Oxford: BA Biological Sciences

Research interests

1. Ecosystem services provided by Dung Beetles

I am interested in the underlying ecological processes that define dung insect communities. I am currently working to asses the functional importance of species richness and quantitatively assessing the impact of perturbations on ecosystem services provided by dung beetles.

Whilst current research is UK-based, I have a strong interest in similar patterns and processes in tropical systems, having carried out research into the agricultural impact on dung beetle communities in Zambia with Professor Richard Wall (Bristol University) (2005 and 2010) and Honduras (2007).

2. Threats to farmland biodiversity: non-target, eco-toxic and functional impacts of livestock parasite control and the development of alternative solutions

Current research looks at the impact of parasite control in domestic livestock on dung insect fauna and ecosystem services associated with dung decomposition. Parasite control in livestock is globally unsustainable, with large-scale resistance to current treatments and non-target eco-toxic and functional impacts. I am particularly interested in researching the possible environmental impact of alternative products, used globally for parasite control. Current projects look at potential non-target effects of chicory Cichorium intybus (working with Dr Christina Marley (Aberystwyth University)), diatomaceous earth (DE), garlic, Bug-A-Tub (DE plus undisclosed plant oils), copper supplementation, Verm-X (herbal), a homeopathic product and Duddingtonia flagrans (a nematode-trapping fungi).

3. Large-scale environmental impacts of farming practices

I am also interested in the broader environmental impacts of farming practices and placing an economic value on the services provided by insects. To this end, I am collaborating with the RSPB investigating the importance of invertebrate prey items for the chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax, and researching associated management suggestions for chough conservation. Other projects underway look at the potential of organic or no-tillage systems to support natural enemy populations in the UK and effects of new methods of soya bean production on soil structure and functioning in Brazil (in collaboration with Dr Marcelo Augusto-Batista at Universidade Estadual de Maringá, Brazil).

Application and science communication

The application of theoretical research is key in bridging the gap between science and practice. As a partner in the family farming business, I am able to practically apply my research to an on-farm system in order to test the applied environmental and economic benefits of the research. To this end, I also work with a number of other farmers on a consultancy and voluntary basis assessing the benefits of research findings to commercial farming businesses.

I am passionate about communicating my research to a wider audience, and give regular talks and presentations to farming and non-agricultural audiences. In addition, I have worked on a number of radio and television programmes as a presenter, contributor and researcher.

Recent publications

Beynon, S.A., Slade, E.M., Mann, D.J. & Lewis, O.T. (2012) Species-rich dung beetle communities buffer ecosystem services in perturbed agro-ecosystems. Journal of Applied Ecology, 49, 1365-1372.

Beynon, S.A., Peck, M., Mann, D.J. & Lewis, O.T. (2012) Consequences of alternative and conventional endoparasite control in cattle for dung-associated invertebrates and ecosystem functioning. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 162, 36-44.

Beynon, S.A. (2012) Potential environmental consequences of administration of anthelmintics to sheep, Veterinary Parasitology,189, 125-135.

Beynon, S.A. (2012) Potential environmental consequences of administration of ectoparasiticides to sheep, Veterinary Parasitology, 189, 113-124.

Wall, R. & Beynon, S. (2012) Area-wide impact of macrocyclic lactone parasiticides in cattle dung. Medical and Veterinary Entomology, 26, 1-8.

Relevant funding/awards

2014: NERC CASE partner for a PhD on impacts of agricultural intensification on dung beetles in Zambia

2014: The Royal Entomological Society Wallace Award for the best entomological thesis leading to a PhD written in the English language

2013: Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Sustainable Development Fund. A proportion of the grant was put towards pilot studies on (a) genetic diversity of dung beetles across the UK and (b) potential Johne's disease vectors

2012: WG Green Dragon's Den fundingA proportion of the grant was put towards a pilot study to assess the feasibility of putting an economic valuation on ecosystem services provided by dung beetles in the UK

2012: British Council seed funding for UK-Brazil collaborative project on the impact of no-tillage farming on soil structure and functioning - lead scientist

2012: British Council funding for sustainable agriculture conference, Brazil

2009-2010: Darwin Initiative project scoping funding, Zambia in collaboration with Professor Richard Wall, University of Bristol

2008: Professor Sir Richard Southwood scholarship in Insect Ecology (D. Phil.)

2008: Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society Student Bursary (D. Phil.)

2005: Oxford University Varley Gradwell Travelling Fellowship in Insect Ecology (Zambia)

2004: The Wynford Davies Travelling Scholarship (Indonesia)

Selected recent conference/meeting attendance (papers/posters presented)

2014: Royal Entomological Society Europen Congress of Entomology - invited guest speaker (York)

2012: Rio+20 Earth Debates final debate (London)

2012: Royal Entomological Society (RES) 'Insect declines in agriculture' (Rothamstead Research)

2012: International networking skills for agricultural researchers (Brazil)

2011: The 2nd European Dung Ecology Conference (Nottingham)

2010: Amateur Entomological Society young members day (Oxford)

2010: Amateur Entomological Society members day (NHM, London)

2009: The 1st European Dung Ecology Conference (Oxford)*

2009: The RES Postgraduate Conference (Sheffield)