Dr. Stephen Parnell

School of Science, Engineering and Environment

Photo of Dr. Stephen Parnell

Contact Details

Peel Building Room 309

Please email for an appointment.



Current positions

Reader in Spatial Epidemiology


I graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Ecological Science from the University of Edinburgh in 2001. In my final year dissertation I used GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and spatial statistics to analyse plant disease epidemic data. Following graduation I spent a year at the BBSRC agricultural institute Rothamsted Research in the Statistics Unit where I became increasingly interested in the use of quantitative methods, particularly in epidemic spread modelling. 

I went on to complete my PhD at the University of Cambridge in mathematical biology where my thesis focused on the population dynamics and management of pesticide resistance in crop protection.  Following this I spent two years as a Postdoctoral researcher at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Florida where I developed models of invasive diseases of citrus and worked closely with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to inform disease surveillance strategies.  I then spent seven years as a Research Scientist and epidemic modeller at the Rothamsted Research before moving to Salford as Lecturer in Spatial Epidemiology in October 2014.

Areas of research

Modelling, Surveillance, Epidemiology, Plant Health, Invasive Species


I contribute to a wide range of modules across undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in the School of Environment and Life Sciences. I lead a final year undergraduate module ‘Modelling Environmental Systems’ and I also teach spatial analysis methods on the MSc in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) which is run jointly between Salford and Manchester Metropolitan University (UNIGIS). 

Research Interests

My research aims to better understand the processes that drive the spread of plant disease epidemics with a practical focus on improving disease surveillance strategies.  As international trade and travel continues to increase, more plants are being shipped around the world, and more pests and diseases are showing up in unexpected places. Recent high profile cases in the UK include Ash Dieback disease, but this is a global issue, affecting agricultural crops and natural environments everywhere.

I work closely with national and international bodies such as Defra, the US Department of Agriculture and the European Food Safety Authority to provide advice on surveillance strategies. We use epidemic modelling approaches to help identify when and where disease risk is highest and thus where surveillance resources should be targeted.

We address practical questions such as: How should we design a surveillance programme to maximise the probability to detect an epidemic soon after it begins? How can we be sure that a region is disease free if nothing is detected in a sampling program? What is the most cost-effective combination of detection and diagnostic technologies against a particular pest or disease threat? How can we make best use of citizen science efforts to detect pests and diseases?

Qualifications and Memberships


  • PhD in Mathematical Biology, University of Cambridge (2005)
  • BSc Ecological Science (Resource Management Hons), University of Edinburgh (2001)


  • Member of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Plant Health Panel (2014-current)
  • Senior Editor of the journal Phytopathology (2015-current)