Professor Philip James

School of Science, Engineering and Environment

Photo of Professor Philip James

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Peel Building Room G46

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Professor of Ecology

Biography

At the University of Bradford, I studied Applied Biology, specializing in Plant Protection. Immediately after graduating I was employed by United Biscuits (Agriculture) as an agronomist with responsibility for overseeing the growing, harvesting, and storage of potatoes destined to be made into crisps. While working for United Biscuits (Agriculture), I completed my PhD (University of Wales (Swansea)).

My doctoral studies focused on a commercially important aspect of plant physiology and how potatoes responded to certain cultural practices. The discoveries I made were important commercially and led to improvements in cultural practices and to a further research programme that investigated the sub-cellular changes responsible for the phenological traits I had discovered.

In 1985, I left United Biscuits (Agriculture) and trained as a teacher, taking up a post in Further Education, first, in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, and then Hull, East Yorkshire.

In 1994, I came to the University of Salford, where I have developed an expertise in ecosystem ecology and urban ecology. I started as a junior lecturer and am now Professor of Ecology. In addition to my teaching and research activities, I lead the Ecosystems and Environment Research Centre within the School of Environment and Life Sciences. Researchers in this centre investigate how the processes of natural variability and man-made change work. Together they take a whole system approach, working at scales from global to local and over timescales from millions of years in the past to the present and into the future.

Our research helps our partners to deliver responsible management of the environment with multiple benefits, for example, conserving wildlife, understanding the consequences of environment and climate change, and the recognizing opportunities provided by urbanization.

I am an editor of two international research journals and review publications for many other journals. I am a board member of the Local Nature Partnership for Greater Manchester and am working on Defra’s Urban Pioneer Delivery Group. For many years I led the Irwell River Catchment Partnership. I chair the Research Board of the Mersey Gateway Environmental Trust. I will shortly take up an appointment as a Trustee of the Lancashire Wildlife Trust. I currently hold honorary positions at the University of Cambridge and the University of Manchester.

Areas of research

Urban Ecology, Conservation Ecology, Health and Well-Being

Teaching

I support learning on a number of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes within the School of Environment and Life Sciences and across the University. In the sessions I lead for the first years, I concentrate on developing an understanding of the core concepts of ecology and biogeography, and I share my enthusiasm for the natural world (birds, insects, particularly moths).

Much of my teaching focuses on developing the core skills required by practising ecologists. I then build on these in the final year modules to demonstrate how that knowledge is used to address real-world ecological and conservation issues. I lead a module on Habitat Conservation and Restoration where we develop the knowledge and skills acquired in the first two years to address practical conservation issues – creating management plans, conducting surveys, and identifying best practice.

In addition, I lead modules on our MA Wildlife Documentary Production programme, supporting students as they identify and research wildlife stories, turning these into films. I also supervise the production of a number of the final films.

In addition, I present guest lectures on other modules within the School.

Research Interests

At the University of Salford I developed a research programme that led to the establishment of Ecological Networks in the UK and Italy. Using this as a basis, I worked to expand those ideas into urban areas which led to the creation of the Greater Manchester Ecological Framework. These landscape-scale approaches were forerunners to what is now called ‘the Ecosystem Approach’ and my research has developed to incorporate studies of ecosystem services that are delivered by diverse habitats (salt marsh, brownfield sites, Sustainable Drainage Systems, woodlands, meadows, and lakes and ponds).

My research is also used in the development of landscape-scale conservation and environment improvement interventions in, for example, the River Irwell Catchment (777 km2), the Great Manchester Wetlands Partnership (400 km2) and the Upper Mersey Estuary (1.7 km2). In a new project with the Royal Horticultural Society, Lancashire Wildlife Trust and United Utilities, we are exploring the contributions made by small areas of land – private gardens, office grounds and the like – to the natural capital of cities. What links all of these is the concept of systems – a concept central to ecology and one that can be used in my work to understand many twenty-first-century ecological challenges.

My work informs national and international policy through my involvement with the Local Nature Partnership for Greater Manchester, Defra’s Urban Pioneer Programme, and leading the research committee of an environmental charity.

Qualifications and Memberships

Qualifications

  • Advanced Certificate in Professional Development Teaching (University of Salford).1997
  • PGCE Middle Years (CNAA).1986
  • PhD Biology (University of Wales (Swansea).1985
  • BSc (Hons) Applied Biology (University of Bradford).1980

Memberships

  • Chartered Biologist (CBiol)
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology (FRSB)
  • Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (FCIEEM)
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)
  • Member of the British Ecological Society