Skip to main content
School of Environment and Life Sciences

Professor Sheila Pankhurst

Dean of School


I joined the University of Salford in March 2017 as Dean of the School of Environment and Life Sciences. I hold an honours degree in Biology from the University of Durham, and a PhD in Zoology from the University of Cambridge (in the area of the evolution of mammalian mating systems), and was awarded professorial title at the University of Cumbria, where I worked as Deputy Dean (Health and Science) before taking up my current post with Salford.

A particularly rewarding part of my role at Cumbria was as academic lead for a formal partnership with the University of Manchester’s School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, leading to a successful bid for a £multi-million contract for the delivery of a Project Academy for Sellafield Ltd. In my time at Cumbria, I was also able to bring in significant external funding for STEM course delivery and new laboratory facilities, and was a founder member of the working group tasked with setting up one of the Government’s new flagship National Colleges (the National College for Nuclear).

Before moving to Cumbria, I worked at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge where I was Head of a large Department of Life Sciences (including forensic science and sports science). I have been an external examiner or curriculum development advisor for a number of universities, including the Universities of Chester, Plymouth, Nottingham Trent, Trinity Dublin and Portsmouth.

My career hasn’t always been in higher education; after graduating from Durham University I worked for a number of years in marketing and public relations, initially for biotech and pharmaceutical companies, and more latterly for various wildlife conservation organisations.

I am now greatly enjoying bringing my experience from within and outside academia to my role as Dean of the School of Environment and Life Sciences, particularly in relation to the development of the University of Salford’s Industry Collaboration Zones. Aside from my responsibilities as Head of School, I am chair of the University’s Apprenticeships Board and of the Timetabling Strategy Group, as well as a recently elected member of the University Council. 


I contribute to, and greatly enjoy, teaching on the undergraduate course in Wildlife Conservation with Zoo Biology, reflecting a long interest and background in zoo research and zoo biology.

Research Interests

I value strongly the importance of a vibrant research community and see this as fundamental to the success of the School. My own research interests include small mammal ecology and behaviour, particularly rodent ecology, and the behaviour, management and welfare of zoo animals. 

Qualifications and Memberships

Qualifications and Memberships

BSc Biology (Ecology): University of Durham (Collingwood College), 1982

PhD: University of Cambridge, Department of Zoology

  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology
  • Scientific Fellow, Zoological Society of London
  • Member of the British Ecological Society
  • Professional Associate (and former member of Research Group), British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA)

Professional Body Qualifications

Association for Project Management, IPMA qualification (2015)

Trustee, Member of Council and Governor positions

  • Member of Council, University of Salford (elected July 2017)
  • Shadow Governor, North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust (2014-2016)
  • Member of Conservation Group, Cumbria Wildlife Trust (from 2014)
  • Trustee and Member of Council, Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Peterborough (elected 2009; re-elected 2012)
  • Trustee and Member of Council, The Mammal Society (2004-2008)
  • Trustee and Member of Council, Surrey Wildlife Trust (1983-1985)
  • Company Secretary and Trustee, New Island Conservation Trust (Falkland Islands) (1996-2000)


  • Hosey, G., Melfi, V. and Pankhurst, S. 2013 Zoo Animals: Behaviour, Management and Welfare. (2nd edition) Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • McCary, J., Pankhurst, S., Valentine, H. and Berry, A. 2011. A comparative evaluation of the roles of student adviser and personal tutor in relation to undergraduate student retention. Report for the Paul Hamlyn Foundation/Higher Education Academy
  • Pankhurst, S., Conlan, H., Rogers, M. and Smith, A. 2010. Survey of wood mice Apodemus sylvaticus on the Island of Rum. Scientific report for Scottish Natural Heritage.
  • Hosey, G., Melfi, V. and Pankhurst, S. 2009. Zoo Animals: Behaviour, Management and Welfare. (1st edition) Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Vargas-Ashby, H. & Pankhurst, S., 2007. Effects of feeding enrichment on the behaviour and welfare of captive Waldrapps (Geronticus eremita). Journal of Animal Welfare 16 (2), 369-374
  • Ottway D., Pankhurst S.J. and Waterhouse J.S., 2004. ‘A possible function for female enurination in the mara (Dolichotis patagonum)’ In: Chemical Signals in Vertebrates X  New York: Kluwer
  • Pankhurst, S.J., 2002. The social organisation of the mara (Dolichotis patagonum) at Whipsnade Wild Animal Park, U.K. Advances in Ethology 37: 61
  • Porteous, I.S. and Pankhurst, S.J. 1998. Social structure of the mara (Dolichotis patagonum) as a determinant of gastro-intestinal parasitism. Parasitology 116: (3) 269-275