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Dr Helen Wheeler

Associate Professor

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

Helen is a wildlife and ecosystem ecologist, focussed on northern, alpine and arctic environments and restoration of ecosystems. Her research is interdisciplinary, exploring both ecological and social aspects of wildlife and ecosystem change. She co-leads ARU's Wildlife Change in the Arctic project.

[email protected]

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Helen joined ARU in January 2018 as a Lecturer in Zoology. From 2012-2017 she conducted postdoctoral research at University of Tromsø, Norway, University of Quebec in Rimouski, Canada, Centre of Functional and Evolutionary Ecology, National Centre for Scientific Research, France and Aarhus University in Denmark. Prior to this, she was a PhD student at University of Alberta in Canada.

Her research focusses on wildlife and ecosystem change in complex systems and monitoring for effective stewardship. She currently is UK PI of the International £0.5m research project 'Beavers and socio-ecological resilience in Inuit Nunangat' and is a lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Transformative Change Assessment.

In the Arctic, she studies direct and indirect consequences of changing climate on wildlife. She works to understand how rapid climatic, ecological and socio-economic change in the Arctic affect wildlife behaviour, population ecology, spatial distributions and interactions between species. Her research is increasingly socio-ecological, including studying how different types of knowledge and information such as Indigenous knowledge and scientific knowledge can contribute to our understanding of the causes and consequences wildlife and ecosystem change. Elsewhere, her research focuses on ecological and social impacts of minimal intervention restoration and the evidence base for different restoration approaches.

Research interests

  • Impacts of climate change on wildlife and ecosystems
  • Impacts of climate-induced species distribution change on ecosystems and people
  • Incorporating multiple knowledge systems into research and decision-making
  • Restoration and rewilding: ecological and social impacts
  • Nature-based solutions
  • Gaps and biases in large scale ecological monitoring and synthesis
  • The role of scientists at the science-policy interface

Areas of research supervision

Helen welcomes enquiries from prospective research students in the areas of her research interests and expertise. She also welcomes interest from postdocs who wish to apply for external fellowships. We also occasionally take on volunteers, please enquire if interested.

Find out more about our Biology PhD and take a look at our exciting PhD project opportunities.


Helen teaches on the following courses:

Masters module leadership:

  • Current Topics in Wildlife Conservation
  • Understanding Biodiversity and Sustainability


  • PhD in Ecology, University of Alberta, Canada
  • MRes in Ecology and Environmental Management, University of York, UK
  • BA Natural Sciences (Zoology), University of Cambridge, UK

Memberships, editorial boards

  • Lead author on Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Transformative Change Assessment
  • Member, British Ecological Society
  • Reviewing (publications and grants): Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology, Conservation Biology, Canadian Journal of Zoology, Ecoscience, Drone systems and Applications, Journal of Biogeography, Journal of Applied Ecology, Journal of Mammalogy, Mammalian Biology, Oecologia, People and Nature, PLOS One, National Science Foundation (US), UKRI

Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange

  • Canada Inuit Nunangat United Kingdom Partnership (UKRI). Beaver And socio-ecological Resilience in Inuit Nunangat (PI) GBP£553,491, 2022-2025
  • Cumulative impacts monitoring program. Understanding the cumulative impacts of beaver activity on stream health in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. (CoI) CAD$60,000 2022-2023
  • Wildlife Studies Fund, Gwich’in Renewable Resources Board (PI) CAD$18,870, 2022
  • IASC cross-cutting workshop fund (PI) EUR€12750, 2022
  • Wildlife Studies Fund, Gwich’in Renewable Resources Board (PI), CADS17277, 2021
  • UK-Canada Arctic Partnership Bursary (PI), GBP£17530, 2020
  • On the Land Programme (CoI with Gwich’in Renewable Resources Board (PI) and Environment Canada (CoI)) CAD$30000, 2020
  • UK-Canada Arctic Partnership Bursary (PI), GBP£19710, 2019
  • Murie Science and Learning Fellowship (PI), USD$4000, 2013
  • Alberta Ingenuity Studentship, CAD$27500p.a. 2009-2011
  • Canadian Circumpolar Institute Grant Awards, CAD$2500-$4000p.a. 2008-2011
  • Leverhulme Trust Study Abroad Studentship, GBP£18000p.a. 2007-2008

Selected recent publications

Mikołajczak, K.M., Jones, N., Sandom, C.J., Wynne‐Jones, S., Beardsall, A., Burgelman, S., Ellam, L. and Wheeler, H.C., 2021. Rewilding - the farmers’ perspective. Perceptions and attitudinal support for rewilding among the English farming community. People and Nature. In press. https://doi.org/10.1002/pan3.10376.

Ramsay, J., Sandom, C., Ings, T. and Wheeler, H.C., 2022. What evidence exists on the impacts of large herbivores on climate change? A systematic map protocol. Environmental Evidence, 11(1), pp.1-8.

Tape, K.D., Clark, J.A., Jones, B.M., Wheeler, H.C., Marsh, P. and Rosell, F., 2021. Beaver Engineering: Tracking a New Disturbance in the Arctic. Arctic Report Card 2021, US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. p.66.

Wheeler, H. C, Danielsen, F., Fidel, M., Hausner, V. H., Horstkotte, T., Johnson, N, Lee, O, Mukherjee, N., Amos, A., Ashtorn, H., Ballari, Ø., Behe, C. Breton., Honeyman, K., Retter, G.-B., Buschman, V., Jakobsen, P. Johnson, F., Lyberth, B., Parrott, J. A., Pogodaev, M., Sulyandziga, R., Vronski, N., 2020. The need for transformative changes in the use of Indigenous knowledge along with science for environmental decision-making in the Arctic. People and Nature, 2, pp. 554-55.

Wheeler, H. C., Root-Bernstein, M., 2020. Informing decision making with Indigenous and local knowledge and science. Journal of Applied Ecology, 57, pp. 1634-1643.

Perino, A., Pereira, H. M., Navarro, L. M., Fernández, N., Bullock, J. M., Ceaușu, S., Cortés-Avizanda, A., van Klink, R., Kuemmerle, T., Lomba, A., Pe'er, G., Plieninger, T. Rey Benayas, J. M., Sandom, C., Svenning, J.-C., Wheeler, H. C., 2019.Rewilding complex ecosystems. Science, 364(6438), eaav5570. doi: 10.1126/science.aav5570

Wheeler, H. C., Berteaux, D., Furgal, C., Cazelles, K., Yoccoz, N. G., Grémillet, D., 2018. Identifying key needs for the integration of social–ecological outcomes in arctic wildlife monitoring. Conservation Biology, 33(4), pp. 861-872. doi: 10.1111/cobi.13257

Wheeler, H. C., Høye, T. T., Svenning, J.-C., 2018. Wildlife species benefitting from a greener Arctic are most sensitive to shrub cover at leading range edges. Global Change Biology, 24, pp. 212-223. doi: 10.1111/gcb.13837

Wheeler, H. C., Berteaux, D., Furgal, C., Parlee, B., Yoccoz, N. G., Grémillet, D., 2016. Stakeholder perspectives on triage in wildlife monitoring in a rapidly changing arctic. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 128(4). doi: 10.3389/fevo.2016.00128

Wheeler, H. C., Høye, T. T., Martin-Schmidt, N., Svenning, J. C., Forchammer, M. C., 2015. Phenological mismatch with abiotic conditions - implications for flowering in Arctic plants. Ecology, 26, pp. 775-787.

Wheeler, H. C., Chipperfield, J., Roland, C. Svenning, J. C., 2015. How will the greening of the Arctic affect a common ecosystem engineer? Vegetation effects on arctic ground squirrels. Oecologia, 178, pp. 915-929.

Wheeler, H. C., Hik, D. S., 2014. Giving up densities and foraging behaviour indicate possible effects of shrub encroachment on arctic ground squirrels. Animal Behaviour, 95, pp. 1-8.

Wheeler, H. C., Hik, D. S., 2014. Influence of shrub canopies on growth rate and pre-hibernation mass of juvenile arctic ground squirrels. Wildlife Biology, 20, pp. 253-258.

Wheeler, H. C., Hik, D. S., 2013. Arctic ground squirrels as a driver and indicator of northern ecosystem change. Mammal Review, 43, pp. 238-255.

Sheriff, M. J., Wheeler, H., Donker, S. A., Krebs, C. J., Palme, R., Hik, D. S., Boonstra, R., 2012. Mountain-top and valley-bottom experiences: the stress axis as an integrator of environmental variability in arctic ground squirrel populations. Journal of Zoology, 287, pp. 65-75.

Thompson, P. M., Wheeler, H. C., 2008. Photo-ID based estimates of reproductive patterns in female harbour seals. Marine Mammal Science, 24, pp. 138-146.

Recent presentations and conferences

Invited seminars

Stakeholder needs for arctic seabird monitoring and pan arctic monitoring gaps. Durham University, UK, February 2019.

Research needs on arctic biology and biodiversity. Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme/EU PolarNet Stakeholder Workshop on Research Needs on Arctic ecosystems, Rovaniemi, Sweden, October 2018.

Board meetings

Since 2020, Helen has been regularly presenting research findings at board meeting of Indigenous organisations such as Gwich’in Renewable Resource Board, Joint Secretariat Fisheries Joint Management Committee.

Invited speaker and panel member

Stakeholder needs for pan-arctic wildlife monitoring. Swiss Polar Institute, High Altitudes meets High Latitude: Globalising Polar Issues Conference, Crans Montana, Switzerland, September 2017.

Arctic Council Working groups and Expert Network participation (Policy-related meetings)

Monitoring of seabirds and terrestrial vertebrates: Needs and perceptions. Arctic Council CAFF Terrestrial Ecosystem Group Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program meeting, Sweden, April 2016.

How well does monitoring of wildlife meet the needs of stakeholders? CBird (Arctic Council CAFF Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program expert network) meeting, South Africa, October 2015.

How well does monitoring of wildlife meet the needs of stakeholders? Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF) Arctic Council working group meeting, Norway, September 2015.

Scientific meetings

Understanding changes in North American beaver occupancy in northern environments. ArcticNet Annual Science Meeting, Halifax, Canada, Dec. 2019.

Broadening our perspective on needs for arctic monitoring, research and synthesis to meet human needs and support nature. Ecosystem Service Partnership ESP10 World Conference, Hannover, Germany, Oct. 2019.

Pan-arctic wildlife monitoring: stakeholder needs and gaps in driver representation in socio-ecological systems, Arctic Biodiversity Congress, Finland, Oct. 2018
Ecology Across Borders: Joint Annual Meeting Ghent, Belgium, December 2017.

Assessing the implications of shrubification for arctic ground squirrels at multiple scales. Rodens et Spatium Conference, Portugal, July 2014.

Population, individual and behavioural approaches to understanding the implications of habitat change for arctic ground squirrels. International Mammalogical Congress, Northern Ireland, August 2013.

Implications of shrub encroachment for arctic ground squirrels. British Ecological Society Annual Meeting, Sheffield, UK, September 2011.

Variation in Arctic ground squirrel populations across an alpine tundra ecotone: Investigating the effects of shrubs and habitat visibility. Population biology symposium, Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution Annual Conference, Banff, Alberta, May 2011.

Investigating potential impacts of shrub encroachment on Arctic ground squirrel behaviour and density. Understanding Circumpolar Ecosystems in a Changing World – Beyond outcomes of the International Polar Year Conference, Edmonton, Alberta, November 2010.

Media experience

Coverage includes CBC Radio (Canada), NPR (USA), BBC News (online), BBC World Service, BBC Look East, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, The Guardian, Times Higher Education, New Scientist, Newsweek, NNSL media.