Science

Rainforest field equipment

Tim specialises in biodiversity and ecology – studying the different types of living things that exist and how they interact with each other. Tim has a particular interest and expertise in insects and their relatives, the groups that make up almost all of the animal life on our planet*.

Several hundred parasitoid wasps on a British five pence coin.

Several hundred parasitoid wasps on a British five pence coin. Most species of animal look something like this.

Tim’s PhD research in the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge focused on the interplay between oil-palm plantations and rainforests on the island of Borneo – one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. Despite having one of the highest concentrations of plant and animal species on the planet, the Bornean rainforest is under severe threat from logging and conversion to plantations, particularly of oil palm.

Sunrise over lowland rainforest, Sabah, Borneo.

Sunrise over lowland rainforest, Sabah, Borneo.

The sun sets on the rainforest. A logging camp in Sabah, Borneo.

The sun sets on the rainforest. A logging camp in Sabah, Borneo.

Tim’s research involved collecting thousands of animal specimens, mostly insects, in the canopies of rainforests and plantations, over many months spent in the field. A large number of these specimens have been found to be completely new to science, with some representing new genera. Many have now found permanent homes in the entomology collections of the Natural History Museum in London. Tim has also conducted scientific studies and expeditions in other parts of the world, including in Kenya, Brazil, The Dominican Republic, The Philippines, and the UK. For more information, please get in touch.

Tim Cockerill canopy fogging in Borneo by Steve Prescott.

Canopy fogging to collect insects in Borneo. Photo by Steven Prescott.

*Almost all? What about the mammals and birds?! Well we’re still not sure what proportion of the living things on the planet have been discovered and formally named. That’s partly because it’s really difficult to work out how many species we haven’t yet discovered. What we do know is that the majority of the animal species we have discovered are insects, and that only a small proportion of the insects have yet been discovered. For example, there are fewer than six thousand species of mammal on the planet, whereas there could be six million species of insect. Despite what most TV documentaries, photography exhibitions, YouTube videos of cute animals etc. would have you believe, vertebrates (animals with feathers, fur, scales and the like) probably don’t represent much more than 1% of the animal species that exist.