Leadership team

Professor Matthew Thomas


Matthew Thomas is Professor of Ecological Entomology in the Department of Biology at the University of York. He has held previous positions in the UK, Australia and the US.

Matthew is an Elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Elected Fellow of the Entomological Society of America, and past Chair of American Committee of Medical Entomology (subgroup of American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene).

Matthew’s research centers on the ecology and evolution of insect pests and diseases, with the aim of better understanding the consequences of global change and improving the effectiveness and sustainability of pest and disease management. He has worked across diverse natural and managed systems addressing varied problems in temperate and tropical settings including species invasions, biodiversity loss, agricultural intensification, pesticide resistance, and climate change. His focus in recent years has been to transfer insights from ecology and agriculture into the public health arena, with extensive research on vector borne diseases such as malaria and dengue.

Professor Tony Heron

Sustainable Food Research Theme Co-Lead

Tony Heron is a Chair of International Political Economy at the University of York.  He is currently serving as a Parliamentary Academic Fellow to the House of Commons International Trade Committee. In this role, Tony acts as a trade policy specialist and advisor to the Committee, in its oversight and scrutiny of the work of the Department for International Trade.

Tony is the author of three books and numerous articles and book chapters. Tony has received research funding from, among others, the ESRC, BBSRC, EU Horizon 2020, British Academy, Leverhulme and Nuffield. Tony’s current work is centred on interdisciplinary global food systems research, sustainability governance, global value chains, the political economy of the UK’s independent trade policy and agricultural reform in the context of Brexit.

In 2021, Tony was a member of the UK Government Office for Science Commission for ‘Rebuilding Resilient Britain’ and a co-author of its final report. Previously, he has advised DEFRA, Coop Food, the Food Standards Agency and the World Bank Group, among others. Tony’s work on soy was cited in the Dasgupta Review on the Economics of Biodiversity, commissioned by the UK Treasury.  His work has also featured in Bloomberg, Independent, The I’, Press Association, Times, and the Yorkshire Post.

In 2019-20, Tony was one of 12 N8 Agri-Food (N8AF) Chairs, providing strategic leadership to catalyse interdisciplinary and collaborative food systems research across the N8 universities (Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Manchester, Sheffield and York). He is also a member of the N8 Agri-Food Policy Hub Steering Group.

Tony is a regular contributor to the public debate on international trade, food and the environment. He has published numerous recent commentary and opinion pieces, including: Food Matters Live, The Conversation, UK in a Changing Europe, LSE Brexit Blog, Yorkshire Post, SPERI and Nature Food.

Dr Colin Beale

Resilient Ecosystems Research Theme Co-Lead

Colin Beale is a Reader in Ecology and the Director of External Engagement for the Department of Biology, University of York. He is a trustee of A Rocha UK.

Colin's research links spatial ecology and conservation biology, with a strong focus on delivering impact. He leads research programmes on conservation and ecology of savannahs in East Africa, and studies global change impacts on species distributions in the UK and Europe.

Dr Julia Touza

Resilient Ecosystems Research Theme Co-Lead

Julia Touza is a Reader in Environmental Economics in at the University of York working on human-nature relationships to inform policy on biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of renewable natural resources. She explores how economic incentives shape human behaviour and what this means for both society and the environment. Her applied research focuses broadly on trade and plant pests and diseases, resilience of social-ecological systems, and ecosystem services modelling, through integrative interdisciplinary research that combine expertise across ecology, economics, mathematics, epidemiology, history, and policy among others.

Her work has received funding form European, UK (ESRC, NERC, BBSRC), Spanish and Portuguese research councils. She has also engaged with Defra, Forestry Commission, and Natural England, in a series of research initiatives and projects.  She is currently involved in projects on evaluating private initiatives for biodiversity conservation in the Colombia paramo, public-private collaborative biosecurity schemes, and the flexibility of investments in natural capital to sustain ecosystem services delivery threaten by hazards change. She led the BSc in Environment, Economics and Ecology (2016-2020), and is a scientific member of the BIOECON network.


Dr Peter Coventry

Health and Environment Research Theme Co-Lead

Pete Coventry is a Senior Lecturer in Health Services Research in the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York. He is a member of the Mental Health and Addiction Research Group where he co-leads (with Prof Rachel Churchill) a research theme on mental health evidence synthesis. He is also a senior and feedback editor for the Cochrane Common Mental Disorders group.

Pete’s research centres on integration of physical and mental health care, especially for people with multimorbidity. His work is underpinned by an ecological public health perspective and focuses on the development of interdisciplinary and sustainable approaches to developing and evaluating nature based solutions to improve mental health and wellbeing.

He co-leads, with Prof Piran White, a green and blue space research theme, as part of the UKRI funded Closing the Gap Network+ programme, that seeks to address health inequalities in people with serious mental illness. He is also leads the green space research theme as part of the NIHR Yorkshire and Humber Applied Research Collaboration, which partners with stakeholders in the NHS to promote the use green spaces for health and wellbeing.

 Twitter: @Peteyc73


Professor Piran White

Health and Environment Research Theme Co-Lead

Piran White is Professor of Environmental Management in the Department of Environment and Geography at the University of York. His research focuses on the management of ecosystems to enhance biodiversity, sustainability, and human health. His current projects include the integration of environmental and cultural histories to inform sustainable and equitable management of ecosystems, and the role of nature in enhancing human health. Much of his research is interdisciplinary across the natural and social sciences and the humanities, and involves working closely with policy-makers and practitioners.

Piran is Co-Director of the Interdisciplinary Global Development Centre at the University of York and former Director of the Natural Environment Research Council’s Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Sustainability research programme. He has served on programme review boards and grant assessment panels for NERC, ESRC, BBSRC and EPSRC.

Piran is a member of Natural England’s Scientific Advisory Committee and a former member of Defra’s Expert Panel on Bovine TB and Defra’s TB modelling advisory group. He is Editor-in-Chief for Wildlife Research journal.