DJRFF appoint leading evolutionary biologist as scientific advisor

The David and Jane Richards Family Foundation has appointed a leading evolutionary biologist as scientific advisor. Dr Sophie Evison, an expert in bees, will support the new UK charity in its work to advance the teaching of ecology in state schools.

The foundation is funding the installation of beehives and bee colonies at primary and secondary schools to help children learn about nature. The Richards are passionate about protecting the bee population and see beekeeping as a valuable way of introducing children to a wide range of interesting, useful and important subjects.

Dr Evison has worked with bees since 2009 and is a prominent evolutionary biologist who uses social insect models to investigate a variety of aspects of evolution. She is the newly appointed assistant professor of ecology at the University of Nottingham and has held research posts at the University of Sheffield, University of Leeds and University of Paris. She has published extensively.

Dr Evison runs interactive workshops with schools, in which she explains and demonstrates the “waggle dance”, performed by bees on return to their hive after feeding on flowers to inform other bees about the direction and distance of the food. This summer, she took her workshop to music festivals to help spread the word about the biology of bees and threats to the bee population. Bees face a range of threats including habitat loss, climate change, toxic pesticides and disease, according to Friends of the Earth.

Dr Evison said: “It is fantastic that the David and Jane Richards Family Foundation is working to advance the teaching of ecology in state schools. Bees are such complicated and complex creatures. They have sophisticated communications systems, genetics and social structures. From a biological perspective, we can learn so much from them. I am looking forward to working with the foundation to support its important work.”

The Richards said: “We are delighted that Dr Sophie Evison has joined our foundation as scientific advisor. Her experience and expertise will be invaluable to our cause as we bring beehives and bee colonies to more state schools.


“We need a healthy bee population for food security, sustainable farming, biodiversity and environmental protection. Our goal is to make more people aware of the threat to their extinction and the devastating effect this would have on the balance of our ecosystem.”

The foundation supported the installation of an apiary at Wisewood Community Primary School in Sheffield in July. More announcements will be made in due course.

About the David and Jane Richards Family Foundation:

David Richards, the founder and chief executive of public software company WANdisco plc, set up with wife Jane to educate, empower and improve the lives of children.

The foundation is registered as a charitable incorporated organisation to operate throughout England. Its trustees are Professor Chris Brady, director of the Centre for Sports Business at the University of Salford, Lord Kerslake, the former head of the civil service, and Herb Kim, founder and CEO of Thinking Digital.

Its aims are the advancement of computing and ecology education in state schools and the advancement of environmental protection and improvement. The foundation is supporting the installation and running costs of beehives and bee colonies at a number of state schools in Sheffield, starting with Wisewood Primary School.

David and Jane Richards have donated £1.1m to fund its work.