Jeff Ollerton

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Jeff Ollerton
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Born (1965-02-11) February 11, 1965 (age 59)
Southwick, Sunderland
CitizenshipUnited Kingdom
  • BSc (Hons) in Environmental Biology
  • PhD
  • FHEA
Alma materOxford Brookes University
OccupationProfessor of Biodiversity at the University of Northampton

Jeff Ollerton BSc (Hons), PhD, FHEA (born 11th February 1965) is Professor of Biodiversity at the University of Northampton and has held visiting researcher positions at the University of Campinas in Brazil and the University of New South Wales in Australia. His research specialism is the ecology, evolution and conservation of plant-pollinator interactions. Ollerton is the author of Pollinators & Pollination: Nature and Society (Pelagic Press 2020)[1], co-editor (with Nick Waser) of Plant-Pollinator Interactions: from Specialization to Generalization (University of Chicago Press 2006)[2] and has written more than 120 research papers and popular articles. He is also a published poet with contributions to the Dark Mountain Project and other publications.

Early life and education

Ollerton was born in Southwick, Sunderland into a family that were largely coal miners on his father’s side and shipyard workers on his mother’s. He attended High Southwick Primary School and Hylton Redhouse Comprehensive School. His earliest exposure to natural history was on grasslands that had colonised slum-clearance sites and post-industrial brownfield and Magnesian Limestone grasslands along the River Wear valley[3].

He studied for a BSc (Hons) degree in Environmental Biology at Oxford Polytechnic (now Oxford Brookes University) and remained there to complete a PhD entitled “Ecology of flowering and fruiting in Lotus corniculatus L.” His supervisors were Dr Andrew Lack and Dr Denis Owen, and his contemporaries during his PhD research included Prof. Tim Shreeve, Prof. Stewart Thompson and Prof. Dave Goulson.


Following completion of his PhD Ollerton spent six months in Australia as a visiting postdoctoral researcher based at Macquarie University, studying the pollination ecology of Australian Piperaceae[4]. Returning to Britain he worked as a part-time lecturer at Oxford Brookes University before moving in 1995 to the University of Northampton (then Nene College of Higher Education) as lecturer in ecology. Ollerton remained at Northampton until October 2020 when he stepped down from his professorship to work as an independent science consultant and writer; he retains a Visiting Professorship at Northampton.


Ollerton’s research has focused on the relationships between flowering plants and the pollinators that ensure their reproduction. His work is particularly noted for challenging long-held views about the degree of specialisation within these interactions [5][6][7] and the implications for the ecological stability of plant-pollinator assemblages [8][9], the level of specialisation in tropical communities [10][11] and the evolution of pollination syndromes [12][13]. A particular focus of his work has been the plant family Apocynaceae[14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21].

Ollerton’s work has also dealt with the conservation of pollinators. In 2014 the journal Science published the first analysis of extinction rates in British pollinator bees and wasps, which showed that, contrary to previous assumptions, the main period of decline in British pollinators began following the First World War rather than the Second World War[22].

A paper published in 2011 in the journal Oikos emphasised the huge importance of pollinators and their pollination services to nature by being the first to calculate that an estimated 87.5% of the c. 352,000 species of flowering plants are pollinated by animals[23]. This publication was the “Editor’s Choice” [24]in the month of publication and the paper has subsequently been cited >1900 times including in high-profile international reports such as the IPBES Assessment Report on Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production[25].

Field work to support his research in Brazil, Guyana, Venezuela, Gabon, Namibia, Tanzania, South Africa, Tenerife, Nepal, and Australia, as well as the UK[26].

Science advisory work

Ollerton is in demand as a science advisor to media, governments and businesses. In 2010 and 2011 he was science advisor and on-screen expert in the BBC three-part series Bees, Butterflies and Blooms with Sarah Raven broadcast in 2012[27]. He was also a credited science advisor to the 2011 feature length documentary Disneynature: Wings of Life (Cinesite and the Walt Disney Studios) directed by Louie Schwartzberg[28]. In addition he has worked with BBC Gardeners’ World presented Carol Klein on a Gardeners’ World - Science in the Garden special edition (2010) and the BBC series Plant Odyssey (2015). In 2015 he advised on the sections about pollinators in Tony Juniper’s book What Nature Does For Britain[29].

In the media



  1. Ollerton, J. (2021) Pollinators & Pollination: Nature and Society. Pelagic Publishing, Exeter, UK
  2. Waser, N.M. & Ollerton, J. [eds.] (2006) Plant-Pollinator Interactions: from Specialization to Generalization. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, USA
  3. Ollerton, J. (2021) Pollinators & Pollination: Nature and Society. Pelagic Publishing,Exeter, UK
  4. Ollerton, J. (1996) Interactions between gall midges (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae) and inflorescences of Piper novae-hollandiae (Piperaceae) in Australia. The Entomologist 115:181-184
  5. Waser, N.M., Chittka, L., Price, M.V., Williams, N. & Ollerton, J. (1996) Generalization in pollination systems, and why it matters. Ecology 77: 1043-1060
  6. Ollerton, J. (1996) Reconciling ecological processes with phylogenetic patterns: the apparent paradox of plant-pollinator systems. Journal of Ecology 84: 767-769
  7. Ollerton, J., Killick, A., Lamborn, E., Watts, S. & Whiston, M. (2007) Multiple meanings and modes: on the many ways to be a generalist flower. Taxon 56: 717-728
  8. Biella P., Akter A., Ollerton J., Tarrant S., Janeček Š., Jersáková J. & Klecka J. (2019) Experimental loss of generalist plants reveals alterations in plant-pollinator interactions and a constrained flexibility of foraging. Scientific Reports 9: 1-13
  9. Biella, P., Akter, A., Ollerton, J., Nielsen, A. & Klecka, J. (2020) An empirical attack tolerance test alters the structure and species richness of plant-pollinator networks. Functional Ecology (in press)
  10. Ollerton, J. & Cranmer, L. (2002) Latitudinal trends in plant-pollinator interactions: are tropical plants more specialised? Oikos 98: 340-350
  11. Moles, A. & Ollerton, J. (2016) Is the notion that species interactions are stronger and more specialized in the tropics a zombie idea? Biotropica 48: 141–145
  12. Ollerton, J., Alarcón, R., Waser, N.M., Price, M.V., Watts, S., Cranmer, L., Hingston, A. Peter, C.I. & Rotenberry, J. (2009) A global test of the pollination syndrome hypothesis. Annals of Botany 103: 1471-1480
  13. Ollerton, J. Waser, N.M., Rodrigo Rech, A. & Price, M.V. (2015) Using the literature to test pollination syndromes — some methodological cautions. Journal of Pollination Ecology 16: 119-125
  14. Ollerton, J. (2021) Pollinators & Pollination: Nature and Society. Pelagic Publishing, Exeter, UK
  15. Ollerton, J. (1986) Adaptation to arid environments in the Asclepiadaceae. British Cactus and Succulent Journal 4: 94-98
  16. Ollerton, J. & Liede, S. (1997) Pollination systems in the Asclepiadaceae: a survey and preliminary analysis. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 62: 593-610
  17. Ollerton J., Johnson S. D., Cranmer, L. & Kellie, S. (2003) The pollination ecology of an assemblage of grassland asclepiads in South Africa. Annals of Botany 92: 807-834
  18. Ollerton, J., Masinde, S., Meve, U., Picker, M. & Whittington, A. (2009) Fly pollination in Ceropegia (Apocynaceae: Asclepiadoideae): Biogeographic and phylogenetic perspectives. Annals of Botany 103: 1501-1514
  19. Ollerton, J., Dötterl, S., Ghorpadé, K., Heiduk, A., Liede-Schumann, S., Masinde, S., Meve, U., Peter, C.I., Prieto-Benítez, S., Punekar, S., Thulin, M., Whittington, A. (2017) Diversity of Diptera families that pollinate Ceropegia (Apocynaceae) trap flowers: an update in light of new data and phylogenetic analyses. Flora 234: 233-244
  20. Ollerton, J., Liede-Schumann, S., Endress, M E., Meve, U…. et al. [75 authors in all] (2019) The diversity and evolution of pollination systems in large plant clades: Apocynaceae as a case study. Annals of Botany 123: 311-325
  21. Xiong, W., Ollerton, J., Liede-Schumann, S., Zhao, W., Jiang, Q., Sun, H. Liao, W. & You, W. (2020) Specialized cockroach pollination in the rare and endangered plant Vincetoxicum hainanense (Apocynaceae, Asclepiadoideae) in China. American Journal of Botany (in press)
  22. Ollerton, J., Erenler, H., Edwards, M. & Crockett, R. (2014) Extinctions of aculeate pollinators in Britain and the role of large-scale agricultural changes. Science 346: 1360-1362
  23. Ollerton, J., Tarrant, S. & Winfree, R. (2011) How many flowering plants are pollinated by animals? Oikos 120: 321–326
  24. March 2011 Editor’s Choice: To bee…
  25. IPBES Assessment Report on Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production
  26. Ollerton, J. (2021) Pollinators & Pollination: Nature and Society. Pelagic Publishing, Exeter, UK
  27. Bees, Butterflies and Blooms
  28. Disneynature: Wings of Life

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