Dr Alvin Helden

Deputy Head of Department

Faculty:Faculty of Science & Technology

Department:Animal & Environmental Biology

Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: Animal and Environmental Biology

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).

Untitled Page



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. Since 2011 he has been studying the very rare tall fescue planthopper, hoping to find out more about its ecology to help inform conservation strategies for the species. In 2014, Alvin won first prize in the UK Quarry Life Awards for his work on the invertebrates of restored gravel workings.

Research interests

Untitled Page
  • Biodiversity, with particular interest in Hemiptera (Auchenorrhyncha and Heteroptera) and Coleoptera
  • Species-abundance distributions and species-area relationships
  • Ecology of cereal aphids and of woodlice

Alvin is a member of our Animal and Environment Research Group.

Areas of research supervision

Untitled Page

Alvin supervises projects relating to invertebrate biodiversity, ecology and conservation, including recently Alex Dittrich: Ecology of the tall fescue planthopper, Ribautodelphax imitans.

Find out more about our Animal and Environmental Sciences PhD including our exciting PhD project opportunities.


Untitled Page

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

Selected recent publications

Hudson, L.N. 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.m 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.

Recent presentations and conferences

Helden A.J., Dittrich, A. and Mckenzie, R., 2012. The status and distribution of Ribautodelphax imitans (Ribaut) at Coe Fen, Cambridge, with detailed of the wider Auchenorrhyncha community (poster presentation). Ento'12 Royal Entomological Society Annual Meeting, Anglia Ruskin University, July 2012.

Dittrich, A.D.K. and Helden, A.J., 2012. Competition & Coexistence of Leafhoppers on the Nettle, Urtica Dioica (oral presentation). Ento'12 Royal Entomological Society Annual Meeting, Anglia Ruskin University, July 2012.

Dittrich, A. and Helden, A., 2010. Experimental Sward Islets and Grassland Hemiptera Populations (poster presentation). Ento'10 Royal Entomological Society Annual Meeting, Swansea University, July 2010.