Knowledge for a sustainable world

MA (Cantab), PhD (Lond)

Dr Sarah Arnold joined the University of Greenwich in 2010, after completing her PhD in sensory ecology in the Chittka Lab at Queen Mary, University of London. Her background at Queen Mary and prior to that at the University of Cambridge, was in pollinator behaviour (Dyer et al. 2006, Nature) and the evolution of flower colours (Arnold et al. 2010, PLoS ONE). Dr Arnold investigated trends in the colour composition of flowering plant communities, and the responses of bees to flower colours under variable light conditions, finding that bees show preferences for familiar illuminant types when foraging (Arnold et al. 2012, J Exp Biol).

Since joining the Natural Resources Institute (NRI), Dr Arnold has continued to develop her interest in pollinators, studying the effects of the composition of pollen and nectar (Arnold et al. 2014, J Chem Ecol) on pollinators, their use of odour cues (Arnold et al. in prep) and how environment influences pollinator populations (Arnold et al. 2018, Agr Ecosys Environ). Additionally, she works on the ecology and behaviour of stored product pests, investigating the factors determining how they orient towards food material (Arnold et al. 2012, PLoS ONE; 2015, Bull Ent Res; 2016, Peer J) and the potential of pesticidal plants and other control methods in pre- and post-harvest pest management. Dr Arnold is particularly interested in how the behaviour of storage pests can be affected by their own life history (e.g. age, morph) and interactions between different cue types (colour, odour).

Dr Arnold is a member of NRI's Agriculture, Health & Environment Department, working primarily with the pest behaviour, chemical ecology and ecosystems services research groups. She been lead or co-author on publications about flower colour evolution, insect ecology, and pollinator and storage pest behaviour in international peer-reviewed journals, and is one of the developers and managers of the Floral Reflectance Database.

Dr Arnold is interested in insect behaviour and ecology, in particular the interactions between economically important insects (pests, pollinators, etc.) and their environment and food. Key research questions that interest her include:

  • How do habitats and ecosystems influence abundance and species richness of insects of agricultural importance?
  • How do pests of stored products orient towards host material?
  • How do they respond behaviourally to attractive and repellent cues, including pesticidal plants and other possible control strategies?
  • How do botanical insecticides and pesticidal plants interact with pre- and post-harvest pests and non-target invertebrates such as bees?
  • How do pollinating insects identify food using visual information and other cues, such as the effects of plant appearance or variable illumination on foraging technique?
  • What happens when they find that food: how does the composition of different plants' nectar and pollen affect pollinator preferences and fitness?
  • Ecology of pollinators in the UK and abroad. In particular, how can pollinator populations be supported and safeguarded in different environments?

Environmentally benign combination biopesticides

This Newton Innovate project (2019-2021) involves industry and academic partners from the UK and China, focusing on trialling a novel biopesticide combination and testing its effects on non-target beneficial insects.

Natural pest regulation in orphan crop legumes in Africa (NaPROCLA)

This BBSRC GCRF project (2018-2021) involves partners from UK, Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi. It follows on from findings in the Darwin project (below) about the importance of field margin plant diversity in supporting healthy populations of natural enemies of key crop pests in legume fields, using a mixture of field surveys, DNA barcoding and cage trials.

Harnessing agricultural biodiversity for increased yield and income generation

This Darwin Initiative project (2015-2018) involved partners from UK (RBG Kew, NRI), Tanzania and Malawi, investigating the role of on-farm insect diversity in providing ecosystem services. The project highlighted the role of trees and plant-diverse field margins in promoting pollinators and natural enemies.

Innovation for improved strawberry pollination by commercial bumblebees using caffeine

This BBSRC IPA (2017-2019) and subsequent Pathfinder (2019) in association with Berry Gardens Growers Ltd., Biobest Ltd. and NIAB EMR uncovered potential for caffeine to be employed in commercial bumblebees to promote crop-specific focused foraging.

CocoaPOP - Cocoa Pollination for Optimised Production and WACRIN - West African Cocoa Research and Innovation Network

ACP S&T Programme (2012-2017) co-funded, in collaboration with University of Trinidad and Tobago, CABI and Cocoa Industry Board (Jamaica) (2012-2016) and Swedish VR-funded project (2021-2022) in association with researchers in Sweden, Sierra Leone, Togo and Benin. A programme of work around the diversity and ecology of cocoa pollinating midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) on farms, pioneering a midge rearing system, discovering factors limiting populations, and producing publications on midge seasonal dynamics and response to floral odour cues.

Management and ecology of stored product pests

Dr Arnold has worked on a range of projects around this theme, including internal projects on storage pest orientation, and an IMMANA-funded project (2018-2019) on nutritional losses arising from pest infestation.

Primary supervisor:

  • Diana Tixi – A ‘real-world’ approach to predicting the impact of land-use policies on pollinators
  • Katie James - The role of species-combination pollination systems in crop production and fruit/vegetable quality.

Secondary supervisor:

  • Kate Denton – The potential of insectivorous bats as agents of crop pest control in the UK
  • Cedric Maforimbo - Harnessing pollination services for increased bean yields in smallholder farming systems in East Africa
  • Ojija F., Arnold S.E.J. & Treydte A.C. (2021) Plant competition as a biocontrol method? Possible management tools for suppressing Parthenium hysterophorus. Rangelands. doi: 10.1016/j.rala.2020.12.004
  • Elisante F., Ndakidemi P.A., Arnold S.E.J., Belmain S.R., Gurr G.M., Darbyshire I., Xie G., Tumbo J. & Stevenson P.C. (2020) Insect pollination is important but not limiting in a smallholder bean-farming system. PeerJ. 8:e10102. doi: 10.7717/peerj.10102
  • Ings T.C. & Arnold S.E.J. (2020) Editorial overview: Pollinator ecology in the Anthropocene. Current Opinion in Insect Science. 38:iii-iv
  • Mkenda P.A., Ndakidemi P.A., Stevenson P.C., Arnold S.E.J., Darbyshire I., Belmain S.R., Priebe J., Johnson A.C., Tumbo J & Gurr G.M. (2020) Knowledge gaps among smallholder farmers hinder adoption of conservation biological control. Biocontrol Science and Technology. 30(3):256-277. doi: 10.1080/09583157.2019.1707169
  • Stathers T.E., Arnold S.E.J., Rumney C.J. & Hopson C. (2020) Measuring the nutritional cost of insect infestation of stored maize and cowpea. Food Security. 12:285–308. doi: 10.1007/s12571-019-00997-w
  • Arnold S.E.J., Forbes S.J., Hall D.R., Farman D.I., Bridgemohan P., Spinelli G.R., Bray D.P., Perry G.B., Grey L., Belmain S.R. & Stevenson P.C. (2019) Floral odors and the interaction between pollinating ceratopogonid midges and cacao Journal of Chemical Ecology. 45(10):869-878. doi: 10.1007/s10886-019-01118-9
  • Arnold S.E.J. & Chittka L. (2019) Commentary: Flower colour diversity seen through the eyes of pollinators. Annals of Botany. 124(2):viii-ix. doi: 10.1093/aob/mcz107
  • Elisante F., Ndakidemi P.A., Arnold S.E.J., Belmain S.R., Gurr G.M., Darbyshire I., Xi, G., Tumbo J. & Stevenson P.C. (2019) Enhancing knowledge among smallholders on pollinators and supporting field margins for sustainable food security. Journal of Rural Studies. 70:75-86. doi: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2019.07.004
  • Mahot H.C., Mahob R.J., Hall D.R., Arnold S.E.J., Fotso K.A., Membang G., Ewane N., Kemga A., Fiaboe K.K.M., Bilong B.C.F. & Hanna R. (2019) Trap colour affects catches of brown cocoa mirid, Sahlbergella singularis Haglund, in sex pheromone traps in Cameroon cocoa plantations. Crop Protection. 104959. doi: 10.1016/j.cropro.2019.104959
  • Mkenda P.A., Ndakidemi P.A., Stevenson P.C., Arnold S.E.J., Belmain S. R., Chidege M., Gurr G.M. & Woolley V.C. (2019) Characterization of hymenopteran parasitoids of Aphis fabae in an African smallholder bean farming system through sequencing of COI ‘mini-barcodes’. Insects. 10(10):331. doi: 10.3390/insects10100331
  • Mkenda, P.A., Ndakidemi, P.A., Stevenson, P.C., Arnold, S.E.J., Belmain, S.R., Chidege, M. & Gurr, G.M. (2019) Field margin vegetation in tropical African bean systems harbours diverse natural enemies for biological pest control in adjacent crops. Sustainability. 11(22):6399. doi: 10.3390/su11226399
  • Mkenda P.A., Ndakidemi P.A., Mbega E., Stevenson P.C., Arnold S.E.J., Gurr G.M., & Belmain S.R. (2019) Multiple ecosystem services from field margin vegetation for ecological sustainability in agriculture: scientific evidence and knowledge gaps. PeerJ. 7:e8091. doi: 10.7717/peerj.8091
  • Ojija F., Arnold S.E.J. & Treydte A.C. (2019) Impacts of alien invasive Parthenium hysterophorus on flower visitation by insects to co-flowering plants. Arthropod-Plant Interactions. 13(5):719-734. doi: 10.1007/s11829-019-09701-3
  • Ojija F., Arnold S.E.J. & Treydte A.C. (2019) Bio-herbicide potential of Desmodium uncinatum crude leaf extract against the invasive plant species Parthenium hysterophorus. Biological Invasions.  21(12):3641-3653. doi: 10.1007/s10530-019-02075-w
  • Scott-Brown A.S., Arnold S.E.J., Kite G., Farrell I.W., Farman D.I., Collins D.W. & Stevenson P.C. (2019) Mechanisms in mutualisms: A chemically mediated thrips pollination strategy in common elder. Planta. 250(1): 367-379. doi: 10.1007/s00425-019-03176-5
  • Bergamo P.J., Telles F.J., Arnold S.E.J. & Brito V.L.G. (2018) Flower colour within communities shifts from overdispersed to clustered along an alpine altitudinal gradient. Oecologia. 188(1):223-235. doi: 10.1007/s00442-018-4204-5
  • Arnold S.E.J., Bridgemohan P., Perry G.B., Spinelli G.R., Pierre B., Haughton C., Dockery O., Murray F., Grey L., Murphy S.T., Belmain S.R. & Stevenson P.C. (2018) The significance of climate in the pollinator dynamics of a tropical agroforestry system Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. 254:1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.agee.2017.11.013
  • Arnold S.E.J., Stevenson P.C. & Belmain S.R. (2016) Shades of yellow: interactive effects of visual and odour cues in a pest beetle. PeerJ. 4:e2219. doi: 10.7717/peerj.2219
  • McCarthy E.W., Arnold S.E.J., Chittka, L., Le Comber S.C., Verity R., Dodsworth, S., Knapp S., Kelly L.J., Chase M.W., Baldwin I.T., Kovařík A., Mhiri C., Taylor, L. & Leitch A.R. (2015) The effect of polyploidy and hybridisation on the evolution of floral colour in Nicotiana (Solanaceae). Annals of Botany. 115(7):1117-31. doi: 10.1093/aob/mcv048
  • Arnold S.E.J., Stevenson P.C. & Belmain S.R. (2015) Responses to colour and host odour cues in three cereal pest species, in the context of ecology and control. Bulletin of Entomological Research. 105(4):417-25. doi: 10.1017/S0007485315000346
  • Member of the Royal Entomological Society and South-East Regional Secretary
  • Member of the British Ecological Society
  • Early Career Researcher Excellence Award 2014/15
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