Writtle University College and ARU have merged. Writtle’s full range of college, degree, postgraduate and short courses will still be delivered on the Writtle campus. See our guide to finding Writtle information on this site.

Dr Alvin Helden

Deputy Head of School
Faculty of Science and Engineering
Life Sciences
Areas of Expertise:
Animal and environmental biology
Research Supervision:

Alvin is interested in the biodiversity of habitats in urban and agricultural areas and in restored ecosystems. He specialises in insects, particularly leafhoppers and other true bugs (Hemiptera).

[email protected]

View Alvin's ResearchGate profile


Alvin’s main research interests are in the areas of biodiversity, ecology and conservation. He specialises in insects within the true bugs (Hemiptera), especially the leafhoppers and planthoppers. He has worked in urban areas, agricultural grasslands and restored gravel pits, collaborating with a range of research partners including local councils, the RSPB, Teagasc (The Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority) and Hanson.

His agricultural work has included investigations into grassland field margins, agri-environment schemes and experimental work on the influence of differing grassland plant mixtures. Alvin is particularly interested in the relationship between grassland structural heterogeneity and arthropod communities. He has studied the ecology of the very rare tall fescue planthopper and In 2014, Alvin won first prize in the UK Quarry Life Awards for his work on the invertebrates of restored gravel workings. More recently he has been working to document the Auchenorrhyncha (leafhoppers and related insects) of Kibale National Park in Uganda.

Research interests
  • Biodiversity, with particular interest in Hemiptera (Auchenorrhyncha and Heteroptera) and Coleoptera
  • African leafhoppers and related insects (Auchenorrhyncha) 
  • Species-abundance distributions and species-area relationships
  • Ecology of cereal aphids and of woodlice

Alvin is a member of our Applied Ecology Research Group.

Areas of research supervision
  • Invertebrate ecology
  • Invertebrate communities and biodiversity
  • Invertebrate conservation
  • Urban ecology
  • Insect taxonomy

Find out more about our Biology Sciences PhD including our exciting PhD project opportunities.


BSc (Hons) Animal Behaviour
BSc (Hons) Marine Biology with Biodiversity and Conservation
BSc (Hons) Zoology

  • Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), University of Exeter
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), cereal aphid ecology, University of East Anglia
  • MSc Applied Entomology, Imperial College, London
  • BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences (Zoology), University of Exeter
Memberships, editorial boards
  • Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society
  • Fellow of the Linnean Society of London
  • Member of the editorial board for the journal, Agricultural and Forest Entomology
  • Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA)
Selected recent publications

Dittrich, A.D.K. & Helden, A.J. (2020) Can monophagous specialists mediate host plant choices in generalist planthoppers (Hemiptera: Delphacidae)? Ecological Entomology, 45, 1509–1512.

Helden, A.J., Chipps, J., McCormack, S. & Pereira, L., 2020 Is grazing always the answer to grassland management for arthropod biodiversity? Lessons from a gravel pit restoration project. Journal of Insect Conservation, 24, pp.655–670.

Helden A.J. (2020): Hawkmoths of Kibale. Pictorial guide to Sphingidae of Kibale Forest, Uganda. figshare. Online resource. doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.12923774.v1

Helden A.J. Manco F.; Mowles S. (2020): ARU Kibale Butterfly ID Guide 2020. figshare. Online resource. doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.12923753.v1

Helden, A.J., Morley, G.J., Davidson, G.L. & Turner, E.C., 2018. What can we do for urban insect biodiversity? Applying lessons from ecological research. Zoosymposia, 12, pp.51–63.

Helden, A., 2018. Management for grassland invertebrates – time for a rethink? Conservation Land Management, 16, pp.30–35.

Dittrich, A.D.K. & Helden, A.J., 2016. The community ecology of Ribautodelphax imitans (RIBAUT, 1953) (Hemiptera: Delphacidae), a rare UK planthopper in a distinct grassland habitat. Entomologica Austriaca, 23, pp.87–96.

Helden, A.J. & Dittrich, A.D.K., 2016. Hemiptera community and species responses to grassland sward islets. Entomologica Austriaca, 23, pp.19–28.

Helden, A.J., Anderson, A., Finn, J. & Purvis, G., 2015. The response of sward-dwelling arthropod communities to reduced grassland management intensity in pastures. Irish Journal of Agricultural and Food Research, 54, pp.107–120.

Helden, A.J., Mckenzie, R., Cobbold, G., Grice, P.V., Anderson, G.Q.A. & MacDonald, M.A., 2015. Field-based grassland management for cirl buntings (Emberiza cirlus L.) and its effect on plant - and leafhoppers (Hemiptera: Auchenorrhyncha). Insect Conservation and Diversity, 8, pp.272–281.

Hudson, L.N., ...Helden, A., et al, 2014. The PREDICTS Database: a Global Database of How Local Terrestrial Biodiversity Responds to Human Impacts. Ecology and Evolution, 4, pp.4701-4735. doi: 10.1002/ece3.1303.

Helden A.J., 2014. Grassland Insects After Gravel Extraction Project Report, submitted for the Quarry Life Award 2014. doi: 10.13140/2.1.3645.6003.

Anderson, A., Carnus, T., Helden, A.J., Sheridan, H. and Purvis, G., 2013. The Influence of Conservation Field Margins in Intensively Managed Grazing Land on Communities of Five Arthropod Trophic Groups. Insect Conservation and Diversity, 6, pp.201-211. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-4598.2012.00203.x.

Helden, A., 2013. A Species of Aphid Caricosipha paniculatae (Hemiptera: Aphididae) New for Ireland. Irish Naturalists' Journal, 33, pp.68-69.

Helden, A., 2013. Additional Species Associations of Mermithid Nematode Parasitism of Auchenorrhyncha (Hemiptera). Irish Naturalists' Journal, 33, p.66.

Helden, A., 2013. Macrosteles Variatus (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae) a Leafhopper Species New for Ireland. Irish Naturalists' Journal, 33, p.69.

Dittrich A.D.K. and Helden A.J., 2012. Experimental Sward Islets: the Effect of Dung and Fertilisation on Hemiptera & Araneae. Insect Conservation and Diversity, 5, pp.460-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-4598.2011.00133.x.

Helden A.J., Stamp G.C. and Leather S.R., 2012. Urban Biodiversity: Comparison of Insect Assemblages on Native and Non-Native Trees. Urban Ecosystems, 15, pp.611-624. doi: 10.1007/s11252-012- 0231-x.

Sheridan H., McMahon B.J., Carnus T., Finn J.A., Anderson A., Helden A.J., Kinsella A. and Purvis G., 2011. Pastoral Farmland Habitat Diversity in South-East Ireland. Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment, 144, pp.130-135. doi: 10.1016/j.agee.2011.07.011.

Anderson, A., McCormack, S., Helden, A., Sheridan, H., Kinsella, A. and Purvis, G., 2011. The Potential of Parasitoid Hymenoptera as Bioindicators of Arthropod Diversity in Agricultural Grasslands. Journal of Applied Ecology, 48, pp.382-390. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2010.01937.x.

Helden A.J., Dittrich, A. and Mckenzie, R., 2011. The Status and Distribution of Ribautodelphax Imitans (Ribaut) at Coe Fen, Cambridge, with Details of the Wider Auchenorrhyncha Community (research report).

Helden, A.J., Anderson, A., Sheridan, H. and Purvis, G., 2010. The Role of Grassland Sward Islets in the Distribution of Arthropods in Cattle Pastures. Insect Conservation and Diversity, 3, pp.291-301. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-4598.2010.00106.x.

McMahon, B.J., Helden, A., Anderson, A., Sheridan, H., Kinsella, A. and Purvis, G., 2010. Interactions Between Livestock Systems and Biodiversity in South-East Ireland. Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment, 139, pp.232-238. doi: 10.1016/j.agee.2010.08.008.