Thomas Hesselberg

Departmental Lecturer & Director of Studies, Biological Sciences


Dr Thomas Hesselberg was educated at Aarhus Universitet in Denmark and at the University of Bath. He teaches widely, both here at the Department and at the University's Department of Zoology, where he is a tutor in Animal Behaviour for second and third year students in biological sciences, and supervisor for Final Honours School undergraduate project students. From 2009 – 2011 he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Oxford, doing research on the interface between animal behaviour and comparative biomechanics using the orb spider and its web as a model organism.

At OUDCE, Thomas is Co-Director of the Postgraduate Certificate in Ecological Survey Techniques on which he also teaches the data analysis for ecologists module and he is the Director of Studies in Biological Sciences.

Research Interests

Animal Behaviour, Arachnology, Behavioural Ecology, Biomimetics, Comparative Biomechanics, Comparative Physiology, Invertebrate Zoology, Neuro-ethology


My research focuses on how behaviour in invertebrates, primarily orb spiders and their webs, is shaped by internal physiological and external environmental factors. In particular, I am interested in how behaviour in general and behavioural plasticity in particular has evolved to cope with the constraints imposed by a relatively limited brain capacity and with the biomechanical constraints imposed by morphological and external physical factors as well as silk material properties. The goal is to increase our basic understanding of how small-brained animals use simple decision-making rules to perform complex behaviours. In addition to its intrinsic biological interest, this line of research is of potential interest to designers of biologically inspired robots and other biomimetic technologies.

Academic memberships and duties

  • Research Associate, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford (2011 - present)
  • Member of the Society of Biology’s Accreditation Panel (2013)
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (2014 – present)
  • Expert Evaluator for EU Erasmus+ Strategic Partnerships projects for the National Agency in Denmark (2014 – present)
  • External Examiner on the BSc in Applied Zoology, Moulton College

Professional organisation and society memberships


Ad hoc reviewer

Acta Ethologica, Animal Behaviour, Behavioral Ecology, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, Current Zoology, European Journal of Entomology, Evolutionary Ecology, Frontiers in Zoology, Journal of Chemical Ecology, Journal of Ethology, Journal of Evolutionary Biology, Journal of Insect Conservation, Journal of the Royal Society Interface, Journal of Theoretical Biology, Naturwissenschaften, Oikos, PNAS, Proceedings of the British Royal Society B, Scientific Reports, Sensor Review, Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Zoology.