Professor Sue Hartley

School of Biosciences

Vice-President for Research

Professor Sue Hartley
Profile picture of Professor Sue Hartley


  • Vice-President for Research and Innovation, University of Sheffield (2022 – present)
  • Vice-President for Research, University of Sheffield (2020 – 2022)
  • University of York Research Champion for Environmental Sustainability and Resilience (2015-2019)
  • Director of the York Environmental Sustainability Institute and Professor of Ecology (Band 3) Department of Biology
  • University of York (2010-2019)
  • Director of Research and Knowledge Exchange School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex (2009-2010)
  • Reader then Professor of Ecology, University of Sussex (2001-2010)
  • Section Leader (Community Ecology) and Principle Scientific Officer Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Banchory (1996-2000)
  • Royal Society of Edinburgh Research Fellowship - Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, Banchory Research Station (1993-1996)
  • Post-Doctoral Research Fellow - Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, Banchory (1990-1993)
  • NERC Personal Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship - University of York (1987-1990)
  • PhD University of York (1987)
  • BA University of Oxford (1984)
Research interests

I am interested in the chemical basis of the interactions between plants and other organisms, how these interactions are affected by environmental factors such as climate change, and how understanding these interactions can support more resilient and sustainable crop production.

My areas of expertise include: plant defences, particularly the role of silicon in crop resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses; plant-soil, plant-herbivore and multi-trophic interactions; the impacts of climate change on crops and their pests; sustainable pest management and food security; agri-environment policy.


Journal articles


Conference proceedings papers


Research group

Recent Research PhD students

Marie-Emma Denarié (2024 – 2027)
Improving plant resilience to biotic and abiotic stress via silicon accumulation
Western Sydney University, with Prof Scott Johnson

Sajjad Reyhani Haghighi (2023 – 2026) 
Interactive effect of climatic events on silicon defences against herbivores
Western Sydney University, with Prof Scott Johnson

Katie Shaw (2022 – 2025)
BBSRC White Rose DTP - Silicon enhances stomatal function and protects crop yields, University of Sheffield with Prof Julie Gray and Prof Andrew Fleming

Joris Wiethase (2019 - 2023)
NERC DTP - Identifying the mechanisms linking savannah degradation and bird distribution change. University of York, Co-supervisor, with Dr Colin Beale

Rocky Putra (2018 - 2021)
GRS- funded fellowship supported by Association of Australian Steel Mills and University of York - How silicon kick-starts nitrogen fixation in legumes and what this means for insect food-webs, Western Sydney University, with Assoc Prof Scott Johnson and Assoc Prof Jeff Powell

Jamie Waterman (2018 - 2021)
GRS-funded fellowship - Primed for retaliation: how silicon helps plants “remember” herbivore attack Western Sydney University, with Assoc Prof Scott Johnson and Dr Chris Cazonelli

Ximena Cibils-Stewart (2018 - 2021)
Argentine Government Scholarship - How mutualistic fungi augment silicon-based Western Sydney University, with Assoc Prof Scott Johnson and Assoc Prof Jeff Powell

Sarah Thorne (2017- 2021)
BBSRC DTP - Increasing wheat yields with silicon University of York, with Prof Frans Maathuis

Elizabeth Parker (2015 - 2022)
BBSRC DTP, White Rose Network - The role of AMF in drought alleviation in crops: identifying the underpinning physiological mechanisms University of Sheffield, with Prof Duncan Cameron

Pierre van Griethuysen (2014-2020)
BBSRC Training Award - Plant-nematode-virus interactions: potential influence on the feeding behaviour of free-living nematodes by the viruses they transmit University of York, with Dr Kelly Redeker, Prof Roy Neilson, James Hutton Institute

Current and recent Post-docs Research Fellows

Sarah Thorne (2022 – 2027)
University Research Fellowship - the role of silicon in plant resistance to plant biotic and abiotic stress.

Richard Randle-Boggis (2020 - 2023)
ESRC GCRF award - Harvesting the Sun Twice: Enhancing livelihoods in East African agricultural communities through innovations in solar energy.

Rebecca Vandegeer (2017 - 2020)
ARC Discovery project - Down to earth defence: unlocking silicon-derived defences for plant protection against root herbivores and drought. Western Sydney University, Dr Scott Johnson, Prof David Tissue.

Adam Hejnowicz (2016 - 2020)
ESRC Large Centre award - Centre for Evaluating Complexity Across the Nexus. Lead PI Prof Nigel Gilbert, University of Surrey.

Professional activities and memberships
  • Jisc Research and Innovation strategy forum group (2023 – present)
  • UUK/Jisc content negotiation strategy group (2020 - 2024)
  • Honorary membership of British Ecological Society (2021)
  • Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to ecological research and public engagement, Queen’s Birthday Honours (2019)
  • Board member, Natural England (2018 – 2021)
  • Trustee, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (2016 – 2022)
  • President, British Ecological Society (2015 – 2017)
  • British Ecological Society Award for service to the ecological community (2012)
  • Royal Institution Christmas Lecturer (2009)
  • British Ecological Society President’s Medal for contributions to ecological research (2009)
  • One Earth (Editorial Advisory Board); new high tier journal in Environmental Sustainability from Cell. (2019-present)
  • Global Change Biology (Subject Editor) (2017-2020)
  • Kew Science Review panel (2019)
  • External Review panel for Plant Sciences in Cambridge (2019)
  • Royal Academy of Sciences International Assessment Panel (2018)
  • Chair Advisory Group for the NERC/BBSRC joint National Capability Programme for sustainable intensification of agriculture (2016- 2019)
  • External Advisory Board, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford (2016)
  • BBSRC Strategy Advisory Panel on Agriculture and Food Security (2015 - 2018)
  • Chair of BBSRC/NERC/ESRC Sustainable Agriculture Research Innovation Club (2014 – 2019)
  • Peer Review Evaluation of Wageningen University (2009)
  • BBBSRC Foresight panel on research relevant to environmental change (2007-2009)
  • UKRI panel for the Global Challenges Research Fund (2017-2018)
  • UKRI panel for Future Leaders Fellowships (2017-2019)
  • Royal Society’s Newton International Fellowships panel (2008-2011)
  • Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE), Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs; Chair, ACRE Working group on Environmental Monitoring of GM crops (1999-2006)
  • Ad-Hoc Expert, GMO Panel of European Food Safety Authority Expert Witness, World Trade Organisation (2004-2009)