Professor Sue Hartley

School of Biosciences

Vice-President for Research

Professor Sue Hartley
Profile picture of Professor Sue Hartley


  • Vice-President for Research University of Sheffield (2020 – present)
  • 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, particularly herbivores; the impact of these plant-mediated interactions on the structure and function of ecological communities; and how this complex web of species interactions is affected by climate change.

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

PhD students

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 Prof Roy Neilson, James Hutton Institute

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

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

Ximena Cibils-Stewart (2018 - 2021)
Argentine Government Scholarship - How mutualistic fungi augment silicon-based defences University of Western Sydney, 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 University of Western Sydney, with Assoc Prof Scott Johnson and Dr Chris Cazonelli

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 University of Western Sydney, with Assoc Prof Scott Johnson and Assoc Prof Jeff Powell

Joris Wiethase (2019 - 2022)
NERC DTP - Identifying the mechanisms linking savannah degradation and bird distribution change. University of York, Co-supervisor, with Dr Colin Beale

Post-docs Research Fellows

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

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. University of Western Sydney with Dr Scott Johnson, Prof David Tissue.

Professional activities and memberships
  • 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 – present)
  • Trustee, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (2016 – present)
  • 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-present)
  • Ecological Reviews (commissioning editor and editorial board) (2011-present)
  • 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 (2017 – present)
  • 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 - present)
  • Peer Review Evaluation of Wageningen University (2009)
  • BBBSRC Foresight panel on research relevant to environmental change (2007-2009)
  • UKRI panels for the Global Challenges Research Fund (2017-present)
  • The Future Leaders Fellowships (2017-present)
  • 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)