Meet the Editor: Richard Bardgett

Not long to go now until the 2018 British Ecological Society Annual Meeting where you have a chance to chat to some of our Senior Editors. Get to know the people behind the decision letters in our Meet the Editor series. First up, Richard Bardgett.


President-Richard BardgettWhat can you tell us about the first paper you published?

My first paper was published in 1991 and was a short methods paper on measuring fungal abundance in grassland soils using the membrane filtration technique. The paper, which was published in Agriculture, Ecosystems and the Environment, was part of a special feature that came out of my first ever international conference: the US Soil Ecology Society meeting in Athens, Georgia, 1989.

What’s your favourite species and why?

As an Editor of Journal of Ecology, it would have to be a plant and probably Calluna vulgaris. My first job after finishing my PhD in 1990 was with the Nature Conservancy Council, based in Windermere, Cumbria. I was part of a team doing a large-scale heather condition survey across the uplands of England and Wales, but I also did surveys in the Lake District across Scafell and Helvellyn SSSI’s. I became very attached to Calluna vulgaris.

Who inspired you most as a student?

Lots of people did, but I would have to say my two PhD supervisors, John Whittaker and Juliet Frankland. They were both highly supportive supervisors.

If you could wake up tomorrow with a new skill, what would it be?

Being able to speak French. I did study French at school, so I can mumble a few words. But I would like to learn to speak French fluently, which probably means that should have a sabbatical in France.

Are you a good cook? What’s your signature dish?

Reasonably good. I pride myself on making perfect poached eggs.

Please share a [funny] story about a paper you had rejected.

I recall having a paper rejected from a well-known ecological journal in the mid 1990’s; it was on soil microbial community responses to climate change. It was rejected without review and the given reason was that the journal wasn’t interested in gram negative and positive bacteria. I wrote back that I thought this was unfair. While those bacteria were included, the paper was more about whole community responses to climate warming mediated by plants. The reply: I repeat, we have no interest in gram negative or positive bacteria. We sent the paper elsewhere.

What’s your favourite sports team?

Manchester United.

If you could recommend one place for people to travel to on holiday, where would it be and why?

It would have to be New Zealand.  I spent a lot of time working in New Zealand during the 1990’s and early 2000’s, so have a strong connection with the country.  It is remarkable place, with some of the most stunning, contrasting landscapes that I have seen.

What was the first album you owned?

I can’t quire recall, but I think it was Led Zeppelin IV. I went on to buy all of their albums and recall queuing up outside a record shop in Carlisle to buy Physical Graffiti when it was released in 1975.

If any fictional character could join your lab, who would it be and why?

We need help this winter with a large-scale snow manipulation experiment in the Austrian Alps. So maybe a Marvel superhero who is happy to shovel large amounts of snow over the winter.

How many British Ecological Society annual meetings have you attended? Which one was the best?

My first BES meeting annual meeting was in Newcastle 1988, when I was a PhD student, and I have probably been to 20 or so since then. My favourite was the joint BES/Société Française d’Ecologie meeting in Lille 2014.

Are you attending #BES2018? If so, when is the best opportunity for people to meet you?

Yes and probably at the BES stand.


Richard Bardgett is a Professor of Ecology The University of Manchester, UK. His research is broadly concerned with understanding the role of interactions between plant and soil communities in regulating the structure and function of terrestrial ecosystems, and their response to global change. Richard is also the President of the British Ecological Society.

Read about our other editors:

David Gibson

Mark Rees

Richard Bardgett

Amy Austin

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