Professor Helen Roy’s passion for insects and particular fondness for ladybirds has led to a distinguished research career. Now Helen has been appointed as President of the Royal Entomological Society, and she tells us more about this honour…
Insects have fascinated me for as long as I can remember. I am captivated by their diversity and beauty. Every day my encounters with insects, whether the glimpse of a winter active bumblebee, the emergence of ladybirds in spring or the succession of insects appearing throughout the summer months, are so enriching.
I have had the immense privilege of studying the ecology of insects throughout my career. I am intrigued by the ways in which insects interact with one another, other species and the environment, so ensuring the functioning of ecosystems for the benefits of people and nature.
Since my early days in research, as a PhD student at Rothamsted Research, I have benefited enormously from being part of the Royal Entomological Society. Today, more than twenty years later, I have the pleasure of becoming President of this historic Society (founded in 1833).
I proudly follow Dame Miriam Rothschild and Professor Linda Field to become the third female President. Both Dame Miriam and Lin have inspired many entomologists with their pioneering research and mentoring. The breadth of their contributions is incredible – spanning many insect groups and ranging from molecular biology and chemical ecology, to taxonomy and crop protection. I am most definitely standing on the shoulders of giants. I have had the pleasure of meeting Lin through the Royal Entomological Council, to which she has given many years of service. Sadly I did not meet Dame Miriam but have read much about her and heard inspiring tales of her passion for entomology through the Entomological Club, a society whose members number only eight at a time – Dame Miriam was the first female member and I am the second.
“I am most definitely standing on the shoulders of giants.” Professor Helen Roy
Becoming President of the Royal Entomological Society is an incredible honour for me. I get to give a little back to a Society that has encouraged and supported me throughout my entomological endeavours. Over the six months as President-elect I have been expertly guided by the current President, Professor Chris Thomas. Working collaboratively across the Society, he has instigated many exciting new initiatives. I am looking forward to building on these and developing a shared vision with all members, and the wider entomological community, to celebrate our Society.
A note on National Insect Week
National Insect Week was initiated by the Royal Entomological Society in 2004 and I (or more specifically the ladybirds I work with) was invited to be part of the launch of the first activities. The UK Ladybird Survey, which I co-lead with Peter Brown, has continued to benefit from promotion and support through the Society. National Insect Week is a wonderful celebration of insects and the many volunteers who participate in recordings schemes, such as the UK Ladybird Survey.
Of course this year the celebrations will be different, with COVID-19 restrictions in place, but there will be a fantastic range of virtual campaigns to “celebrate the little things that run the world”.