Great Minds

Sixty seconds with a Scientist…

Dr Dave Skingsley
Senior Lecturer in Biological Sciences

Dr Dave Skingsley joined Staffordshire University in 1993. He has a passion for making the things he enjoys about Biology as accessible to as many people as possible. For example, he runs the extremely popular Bug Botherer website and was involved in helping set up ‘Buglife’, the national charity dedicated to supporting invertebrates. Dave’s first degree, taken at Leeds University, was in Physiology; the science of how organisms work. This led to doctoral work at the University of Sussex in understanding how the invertebrate brain functions. He then completed post-doctoral work on insect vision at Cambridge University’s Department of Zoology.

What is it that you teach?

At Staffordshire University I teach on awards in Biomedical Science, Biology, Animal Biology & Conservation, Human Biology, Microbiology and Biochemistry to undergraduate students. My work also involves Pharmacology (the study of drugs in action), Physiology (the function of living organisms) and Invertebrate Science (the understanding of how organisms can be classified and identified). Ultimately, I help students to better understand how bodies work and how they can respond to changes in their environment and also through the effect of drugs.

What attracted you to Biology?

For as long as I can remember, I have had a passion for wildlife and the natural environment. I come from a rural background and could always be found ‘in’ the great outdoors. My Dad’s garage was filled with jars containing all kinds of wonderful invertebrate creatures that I had found.

What are your other responsibilities?

I teach Taxonomy and the relationship between organisms and their environments, to postgraduate students. I am also involved in Forensic Entomology. This is the study of insects inhabiting decomposing remains. It can be used to help provide evidence in legal investigations. I am heavily involved in equality and diversity and ‘Chair’ both the University and Faculty, Equality and Disability group. I am committed to helping ensure students get the best possible support during their studies

What is the focus of your research?

My current research involves the study of mucus, typically using a process called infrared spectroscopy – a technique used to view minute materials that are opaque to light. By taking slime samples from slugs and snails, for example, it is possible to build up a profile of the various environmental conditions they have been exposed to. Apply the same techniques to people and human mucus can provide a clear marker to the causes of discomfort and inflammation.

Do you work with our local Schools and Colleges?

I visit primary and secondary schools to promote Biology and Forensic Sciences at all levels. This involves organising talks and open days, taking classes and leading ‘bug hunts’ and pond dipping expeditions. I also run events for schools in National Science Week.

What part of your work has been the most rewarding?

Seeing students develop and become enthused in their subject makes my job worthwhile. As you can imagine, being told that you’ve made a real difference to someone’s understanding of Biology or the natural world is incredibly satisfying. That said, my research – investigating how environmental variables can affect our lives – is also exceptionally rewarding.

What do you do to relax?

In my spare time, I am involved in recording natural history across Staffordshire and Cheshire. I am a founding member of the Staffordshire Invertebrate Group and the Cheshire Active Naturalists’ Group. I also work closely with both the Cheshire and Staffordshire Wildlife Trusts, and I was a founding member of ‘Buglife’, a charity dedicated to maintaining sustainable populations of the small things on which we all, ultimately, depend. I also maintain 'Bug Botherer' - a website that is regularly updated with my natural history photography and has useful links to other wildlife websites..

And finally, why should I study a Biology-based subject at Staffordshire University?

Well let’s start with our new Science Centre. The facilities really are incredible and all the lecturers and support staff are totally dedicated to their subject. Then there’s our nature reserve, one of the most important wildlife sites in the city. Ultimately though, studying a Science subject, such as Biology, opens up the opportunity for so many science-based careers. You could even go into teaching!