About Animal and Plant Sciences

Aerial view of Alfred Denny and Firth Court

The School of Biological Sciences

The Department of Animal and Plant Sciences is one of three departments within the School of Biological Sciences, together with the Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology and the Department of Biomedical Science.

The three departments are all located in the Alfred Denny/Firth Court complex at the heart of the Western Bank part of the University campus. Each department operates independently, with its own degree courses, research foci, etc., but there are a number of interdisciplinary points of contact, and shared technical and support services.

The Department of Animal and Plant Sciences

The research and teaching focus of Animal and Plant Sciences is on whole-organism biology: how organisms function, evolve, interact with each other, respond to their environment, and combine to generate the complex ecosystems and ecological processes, on which we all depend.

This work involves both developing fundamental understanding of biological processes at scales from the molecular to the global, drawing on techniques as diverse as DNA sequencing and remote sensing, and applying this understanding to critical environmental problems (such as food production, environmental restoration, conservation of biodiversity and managing the effects of climate change).

The Department currently has 35 academic staff and 21 independent research fellows. There are more than 110 postgraduate research students working for PhDs and Masters, and more than 500 undergraduates on our degree courses. We have 61 support staff in a range of technical, clerical and administrative roles.

Field course teaching

Project students in a research lab


We currently teach seven degree courses entirely based in APS, and one degree (Environmental Science) taught jointly with the Department of Geography. Most of our courses are available as a 3-year BSc, or a 4-year MBiolSci, degree. The MBiolSci adds a research based fourth year to the BSc format. Our students go on into a wide range of graduate jobs, or further research.

All academic staff contribute to the Department's teaching, and our teaching draws strongly on their research expertise. This results in degrees that have the key current issues in biology at their core, provide opportunities to gain experience of current research methods, and benefit from wide-ranging research seminar programmes - featuring both internal and external speakers.

The Department encourages and supports teaching innovation, with several recent teaching development grants and teaching innovation awards to APS staff. We seek to maintain, and develop, the range and quality of our teaching using the most appropriate mix of traditional and novel teaching methods.

Measuring Drosophila under the microscope

Field experiment at Abisko research station

Research and scholarship

Research in APS is grouped into three research themes:  Ecology and Environment, Evolution and Behaviour, and Plant and Microbial Biology.  However, one of the Department's great strengths is that research links and collaborations occur between researchers across the entire Department - providing scope for tackling research problems in novel and flexible ways. We also have many research collaborations with other Departments, both within the University of Sheffield and worldwide.

Researchers in APS are also involved in studies at field sites around the world. In particular we have long established research collaborations with research institutes in Sabah, in Borneo (tropical ecology), Abisko in Sweden (Arctic ecology), Kenya (crop production and weed control) and the Phillipines (rice research).

Currently, five of the eight researchers at the University rated as 'highly cited' are in APS. During the last Research Assessment Exercise review period (2001-2008) 42 out of 76 Nature and Science papers from the University were authored in APS.

Several major international research journals are edited by staff in APS, and many staff are associate editors or on the editorial boards of other international and national journals. 

Staff and students at Graduation

Ratings and rankings

APS has a strong and consistent record in national and international rankings for both teaching and research. Biosciences at Sheffield was ranked third in the UK in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, and we have averaged 3rd position in the Times Good University Guide from 2003-2010.