Dave Goulson is Professor of Biology (Evolution, Behaviour and Environment) at the University of Sussex. He studied biology at the University of Oxford, then completed a PhD in butterfly ecology at Oxford Brookes University under the supervision of Denis Owen.
Goulson started his academic career at Southampton University in 1995 as a lecturer in biology, where he began to research the life of bumblebees. In 2006 he transferred to the University of Stirling as Professor of Biological Sciences. He is a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
He was awarded the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council BBSRC Social Innovator of the Year in 2010, the Zoological Society of London's Marsh Award for Conservation Biology in 2013 and the British Ecological Society's Public Engagement Award in 2014. In 2015, he was listed at No. 8 in BBC Wildlife magazine's list of the top 50 "Conservation Heroes". Specializing in the ecology and conservation of insects, particularly bumblebees, Goulson is the author of several books, including Bumblebees: Their Behaviour and Ecology (2003), A Sting in the Tale (2013), and over 200 peer-reviewed articles.
In 2006 he founded the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, a charity that aims to reverse the decline in the bumblebee population.
TiredEarth team has recently had an interview with Prof. Dave Goulson and asked him about crises threatening bees on the occasion of Wrold Bee Day.
In your opinion, how is the coexisting of human with bees and how important is bee protection for the life on planet?
Bees and other pollinators are necessary for the pollination of 87% of the plant species on the Earth, and for 75% of our crops. If bees were to disappear, millions of people will starve, and the majority of plant life would die out. Hence it could not be more vital that we look after bees. So far, we have done a very poor job of this.
What are the global threats to bees? How do you see the problem in the UK?
Habitat loss, the spread of intensive monoculture farming, and the use of thousands of tons of pesticides on the landscape every year are the main drivers of bee declines. For the domestic honeybee and some wild bees, the accidental spread of bee diseases and parasites by man is also a major problem. Climate change is beginning to have impacts, particularly on bumblebees, and this is set to get much worse.
How do you think pesticides, like Monsanto's Round up, threaten bee colonies?
There is abundant evidence that insecticides such as neonicotinoids and fipronil are very harmful to bees. More recently, evidence is emerging that many fungicides are far more harmful to them than had been appreciated, and also that there can be unexpected synergies between pesticides. Glyphosate and other herbicides remove weeds, some of which are vital food sources for pollinators, while some recent studies suggest that glyphosate too may be directly toxic to bees. Analysis of samples of pollen or honey from bee colonies almost invariable find many different pesticides. Overall, we are exposing bees to a complex toxic cocktail with little regard for the consequences.
To overcome these crises, what are your suggested solutions?
We need to rapidly move away from intensive monoculture farming, with its associated pesticide use, to truly sustainable systems that produce food AND support biodiversity. Organic, permaculture/agroforestry systems offer a lot of promise. We can also transform our urban areas into a network of nature reserves for pollinators and other wildlife.