FROM a mobile phone app to track alien ladybirds to a study on city bees, Helen Roy has brought ecology well and truly into the 21st century.

Through a series of popular ‘citizen science’ projects, the scientist at Wallingford’s world-renowned Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) has helped shape national conversations about conservation.

Now she has been made an MBE ‘for services to Biodiversity Research, Science Communication and Citizen Science’.

The endorsement will no doubt help further a career trying to protect the UK’s wildlife.

It was five years ago that Dr Roy first raised the alarm about the invasive harlequin ladybird which was threatening to out-compete native species.

This tiny beetle, originally from Asia, was introduced to western Europe and the UK by farmers as a natural control agent against aphid and scale infestations.

In 2012 Dr Roy led a study which concluded that the invader was indeed pushing out its British counterparts in some areas. The centre found that seven out of eight UK ladybird species had declined over five years following the arrival of the harlequin in 2004 with the two-spot seeing numbers fall by almost half.

The following year she and her team at CEH helped develop a mobile phone app in which nature lovers could enter sightings of the harlequin to help map its spread across the UK.

In 2014 Dr Roy led a study into bees which concluded many of them prefer the buzz of the big city to the countryside.

In that ‘citizen science’ project she and her team asked 30,000 people across the country to count the number of bees visiting patches of lavender in cities, villages and the countryside. The finding was that rate of bee visits to flowers in built-up urban areas was far higher.

Dr Roy said it was an ‘exciting’ result, proving that people can create ‘oases for wildlife’ in cities.

This winter, she was again urging people in Oxfordshire and across the UK to record their ladybird sightings for the national survey.

In her blog on the CEH website, Dr Roy – who is also a biology professor at the University of Reading – says of her work: “I have a passion for science communication and citizen science.

“Citizen science provides opportunities for engaging people actively in science and over the last 10 years I have led several major citizen science initiatives involving tens of thousands of people.” including UK Ladybird Survey, BBC Breathing Places Parasite Survey and EDF Energy Big Bumblebee Discovery.

“I have been the volunteer scheme organiser for the UK Ladybird Survey for many years and am using the large-scale and long-term coccinellidae datasets (distribution and abundance) to understand and predict the effects of the arrival of the non-native harlequin ladybird on other ladybirds.”

Her research has also been selected for the 2009 Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition.

Find out more about Dr Roy’s work at