Professor Robert Cheke
Principal Scientist, Professor of Tropical Zoology
BSc, PhD, PGCE, FHEA, MRSB, CBiol., FLS, FRES, MBOU
Agriculture, Health & Environment Department
Natural Resources Institute
Professor Robert Cheke joined the Centre for Overseas Pest Research, one of the Natural Resources Institute's predecessor scientific units, as a senior scientific officer in September 1976 and was promoted to principal scientific officer (G7/PS2) in 1990. He was appointed Professor of Tropical Zoology in 1997. Previous posts included:
- 1966: Research assistant, British Trust for Ornithology, Tring, Hertfordshire
- 1973–75: Lecturer II in environmental sciences, Plymouth Polytechnic
- 1975–76: Course tutor for the Open University course on systems behaviour and research associate in entomology at the Department of Zoology, University of Sheffield.
Since 2010, Professor Cheke has been a visiting professor at the Department for Infectious Disease Epidemiology in the School of Public Health at Imperial College London (www3.imperial.ac.uk).
Professor Cheke's research interests concern understanding the functioning of ecological systems. Most of his research concerns tropical environments in Africa, involving the biology and control of vector-borne diseases and agricultural pests, often including mathematical modelling. As an ornithologist and entomologist, Professor Cheke specialises in vectors of onchocerciasis ('river blindness') on migrant agricultural pests such as locusts, armyworm moths and red-billed quelea birds, and on mathematical models of integrated pest management. His research has involved fieldwork in numerous countries in western, eastern and southern Africa.
His major achievements include:
- Contributions to the success of the World Health Organization's Onchocerciasis Control Programme (OCP) in West Africa (1979–90), which treated vector breeding sites with insecticides from 1974 to 2002. This programme helped protect some 40 million people in 11 countries (see WHO, 2002. Success in Africa: The Onchocerciasis Control Programme in West Africa 1974–2002. WHO, Geneva), and also prevented some 600,000 cases of blindness
- Work with the WHO African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC), which led to the successful elimination of onchocerciasis vectors from the island of Bioko, Equatorial Guinea, in 2005, thereby protecting about 70,000 people from contracting the disease in perpetuity (Cheke et al. 2009; Traoré, S. et al. 2009).
Professor Cheke has investigated potential effects of anthropogenic climate change on the animals that he studies and, having looked at how changes in rainfall patterns could affect desert locusts (Tratalos et al. 2010) and brown locusts (Todd et al. 2002), he has also conducted research on climate change effects on onchocerciasis vectors in collaboration with Professor M.G. Basáñez of Imperial College London (Cheke et al. 2015). Together with collaborators in China, he has been concerned with modelling how to control dengue virus vectors by introducing Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes (Zhang et al 2016, Wang et al. 2016), locust phase changes (Cheke et al. 2013,Yuan et al. 2015) and general aspects of integrated pest management modelling (Liang et al. 2013).
Professor Cheke has published 250 articles on biological topics, two books (Cheke, R.A. and Walsh, J.F. (1996) The Birds of Togo. British Ornithologists' Union Check-list no. 14. British Ornithologists' Union, Tring; and Cheke, R.A. and Mann, C.F. (2001) Sunbirds. A Guide to the Sunbirds, Flowerpeckers, Spiderhunters and Sugarbirds of the World. Christopher Helm, A&C Black, London). He has edited three sets of conference proceedings, one of which was for a Royal Society discussion meeting in 1989.
Professor Cheke devised the NRI MSc programme in natural resources and managed it as programme leader in its initial years, He has supervised more than 20 PhD students.
In an increasingly populous and warming world, it is imperative to maximise crop production and minimise health risks, whilst simultaneously protecting natural environments. To achieve these goals it is necessary to understand how living systems function in order to decide which of a suite of possible interventions are best. However, the inherent complexity of living systems requires a systems approach to cope with counterintuitive phenomena and to predict how biological systems will respond to different stresses. Hence the need for quantitative analyses of field data and modelling, both theoretical and empirical.
These approaches, which have underpinned much of Professor Cheke's research, have led to successes in control programmes against human parasitic diseases and migrant pests and have shown that integrated pest management (IPM) is preferable to conventional pest management on both economic and environmental grounds.
Future work is needed to link more field data on pests and disease vectors, which are currently controlled using IPM methods, with mathematical models to devise the most appropriate control strategies. It is anticipated that progress towards these aims will be made in a new project, awarded to Professor Cheke's collaborator, Professor S. Tang of the Shaanxi Normal University, Xi'an, Peoples' Republic of China, to begin in 2013 on Mathematical Modelling for Integrated Pest Management and Resistance Management for BT Crops, funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NNSFC).
Current and Previous Funded Research Projects
2009–14: Co-PI of project Density-dependent host choice by onchocerciasis vectors. Wellcome Trust award to Professor M.G. Basáñez of Imperial College London. Value: £382,000.
This project investigated, using molecular ecology and mathematical modelling, whether the proportion of blood-meals taken on humans by vectors (the human blood index or HBI) depends on vector and host density. Current models of vector-borne diseases (VBDs) assume that the value of the HBI is fixed in a particular environment and therefore predict that the case reproduction number (Ro) of these infections varies linearly with vector abundance. A non-linear relationship would imply that efforts to control VBDs by anti-vectorial measures could have unforeseen effects on the ability of the parasite to invade and persist in host populations.
Fieldwork was conducted at seven sites in Ghana using baited and unbaited trapping methods to catch adult blackflies. Different cytospecies were identified morphologically and by DNA methods and any residual blood-meals in parous flies were identified by DNA analyses. The flies were found to be biting a variety of hosts, in addition to man, such as cattle, goats, sheep, pigs and dogs. The data are being analysed with a view to re-parameterising existing models of onchocerciasis transmission. All cytotaxonomic identifications of larvae for Ghana collected during a 40-year period, including for new samples obtained by the project, were analysed with regard to changes in the distribution and abundance of the various cytoforms recorded (Post et al. 2013).
2010–14: Co-PI of project Transmission, control and feasibility of elimination of human onchocerciasis in Ghana. Royal Society/Leverhulme Trust Capacity Building Africa award to Professor M.G. Basáñez of Imperial College London. Value: £50,000.
The project involved both capacity building by running three formal training courses on aspects of Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) and supervision of the research of four PhD students. The research component has evaluated the current epidemiological situation and feasibility of onchocerciasis elimination, aiming to:
- Identify transmission hotspots by mapping spatio-temporal variation in onchocerciasis according to history of control interventions (vector control and ivermectin distribution)
- Conduct ivermectin treatment coverage surveys in villages with persisting transmission, suboptimal and normal responses to the drug
- Carry out epidemiological, parasitological and transmission surveys in selected villages and
- Develop and calibrate onchocerciasis mathematical models with which to explore the feasibility of its elimination. Results are currently being analysed.
Recently Completed Project
2006–09: PI of project Environmental and human health impact assessment of quelea bird control in southern Africa and novel means of harvesting quelea birds for protein and income generation. SADC/ICART/CRARF 9th European Development Fund project. Value: EUR497,180.
The aim of this research project was to seek more environmentally benign means of controlling red-billed quelea birds, Quelea quelea, a major pest of small-grain cereals in southern Africa which particularly affects farmers in Botswana and Tanzania.
The main activities were assessments of the environmental and human health impacts of controlling the birds' roosts and breeding colonies by avicides, explosives, mass trapping and harvesting. The effects of these different control methods on non-target fauna and on the health of farmers and control workers were assessed by residue analyses, assays of acetylcholinesterase depression and pesticide levels in blood samples. Particular attention was paid to refining means of using harvested quelea birds for protein and income generation, as well as capacity building of national agricultural services.
The occurrence of unacceptably high levels of the organophosphate pesticides fenthion and cyanophos in soil after sprays and of petroleum products and phthalates after explosions were confirmed and quantified (Cheke et al., 2013). Both acetylcholinesterase and butyrylcholinesterase levels in the blood of birds were depressed after sprays in surviving target and non-target birds and, contrary to results of previous studies, acetylcholinesterase was found to be present in avian erythrocytes (Cheke et al., 2012).
Responsibilities within the University
- Research and teaching
- Wang, X., Tang, S. & Cheke, R.A. (2016) A stage structured mosquito model incorporating effects of precipitation and daily temperature fluctuations. Journal of Theoretical Biology 411: 27-36.
- Zhang, X., Tang, S., Cheke, R.A. & Zhu, H. (2016) Modeling the effects of augmentation strategies on the control of dengue fever with an impulsive differential equation. Bulletin of Mathematical Biology 78: 1968–2010.
- Frempong, K.K., Walker, M., Cheke, R.A., Tetevi, E.J., Gyan, E.T., Owusu, E.O., Wilson, M.D., Boakye, D.A., Taylor, M.J., Biritwum, N.-K., Osei-Atweneboana, M. & Basáñez, M.-G. (2016) Does increasing treatment frequency address sub-optimal responses to ivermectin for the control and elimination of river blindness? Clinical Infectious Diseases 62 (11): 1338-1347.
- Lamberton, P.H.L., Cheke, R.A., Walker, M., Winskill, P., Crainey, J. L., Boakye, D.A., Osei-Atweneboana, M.Y., Tirados, I., Wilson, M.D., Tetteh-Kumah, A., Otoo, S., Post, R.J. & Basáñez, M.-G. (2016) Onchocerciasis transmission in Ghana: the human blood index of sibling species of the Simulium damnosum complex. Parasites & Vectors 9: 432. DOI: 10.1186/s13071-016-1703-2.
- Cheke, R.A., Basáñez, M.-G., Perry, M., White, M.T., Garms, R., Obuobie, E., Lamberton, P.H.L., Young, S., Osei-Atweneboana, M.Y., Intsiful, J., Shen, M., Boakye, D.A. & Wilson, M.D. (2015) Potential effects of warmer worms and vectors on onchocerciasis transmission in West Africa. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. 370: 20130559.
- Yuan, B., Tang, S. & Cheke, R.A. (2015) Duality in phase space and complex dynamics of an integrated pest management network model. International Journal of Bifurcation and Chaos 25(8) (DOI: 10.1142/S0218127415501035).
- Liang, J., Tang, S., Cheke, R.A. & Wu, J. (2013) Adaptive release of natural enemies in a pest-natural enemy system with pesticide resistance. Bulletin of Mathematical Biology 75: 2167-2195.
- Cheke, R.A. (2014) in CABI, 2014. Red-billed Quelea Quelea quelea [original text by RA Cheke]. In: Invasive Species Compendium. Wallingford, UK: CAB International. www.cabi.org/isc. (published online 11 February 2014).
- Cheke, Robert A., Tang, Sanyi and Tratalos, Jamie A. (2013) Predator–prey population models of migrant insects with phase change. ICES Journal of Marine Science. (In Press) (doi:10.1093/icesjms/fst150)
- Cheke, Robert A. and Garms, Rolf (2013) Indices of onchocerciasis transmission by different members of the Simulium damnosum complex conflict with the paradigm of forest and savanna parasite strains. Acta Tropica, 125 (1). pp. 43-52. ISSN 0001-706X (doi:10.1016/j.actatropica.2012.09.002)
- Post, R.J., Cheke, R.A., Boakye, D.A., Wilson, M.D. et al. (2013) Stability and change in the distribution of cytospecies of the Simulium damnosum complex (Diptera: Simuliidae) in southern Ghana from 1971 to 2011. Parasites & Vectors 2013, 6: 205. doi:10.1186/1756-3305-6-205.
- Cheke, Robert A., Adranyi, Enoch, Cox, John R., Farman, Dudley I., Magoma, Richard N., Mbereki, Collen, McWilliam, Andrew N., Mtobesya, Boaz N. and van der Walt, Etienne (2012) Soil contamination and persistence of pollutants following organophosphate sprays and explosions to control red-billed quelea (Quelea quelea). Pest Management Science. ISSN 1526-498X (In Press) (doi:10.1002/ps.3311)
- Liang, J., Tang, S., Nieto, J.J. and Cheke, R.A. (2013) Analytical methods for detecting pesticide switches with evolution of pesticide resistance. Mathematical Biosciences, 245, pp. 249-257.
- Tang, Sanyi, Liang, Juhua, Tan, Yuanshun and Cheke, Robert A. (2013) Threshold conditions for integrated pest management models with pesticides that have residual effects. Journal of Mathematical Biology, 66 (1-2). pp. 1-35. ISSN 0303-6812 (Print), 1432-1416 (Online) (doi:10.1007/s00285-011-0501-x)
- Tang, Sanyi, Liang, Juhua, Xiao, Yanni and Cheke, Robert A. (2012) Sliding bifurcations of Filippov two stage pest control models with economic thresholds. SIAM Journal on Applied Mathematics, 72 (4). pp. 1061-1080. ISSN 0036-1399 (print), 1095-712X (online) (doi:10.1137/110847020)
- Cheke, Robert A., McWilliam, Andrew N., Mbereki, Collen, van der Walt, Etienne, Mtobesya, Boaz, Magoma, Richard N., Young, Stephen and Eberly, J. Patrick (2012) Effects of the organophosphate fenthion for control of the red-billed quelea Quelea quelea on cholinesterase and haemoglobin concentrations in the blood of target and non-target birds. Ecotoxicology, 21 (7). pp. 1761-1770. ISSN 0963-9292 (Print), 1573-3017 (Online) (doi:10.1007/s10646-012-0911-6)
- Cheke, R.A. (2012) The thermal constant of the onchocerciasis vector Simulium damnosum s.l. in West Africa. Medical & Veterinary Entomology, 26, pp. 236–238.
- Tang, Sanyi, Xiao, Yanni, Yuan, Lin, Cheke, Robert A. and Wu, Jianhong (2012) Campus quarantine (Fengxiao) for curbing emergent infectious diseases: lessons from mitigating A/H1N1 in Xi’an, China. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 295. pp. 47-58. ISSN 0022-5193 (doi:10.1016/j.jtbi.2011.10.035)
- Adler, Peter H., Cheke, Robert A. and Post, Rory J. (2010) Evolution, epidemiology, and population genetics of black flies (Diptera: Simuliidae). Infection, Genetics and Evolution, 10 (7). pp. 846-865. ISSN 1567-1348 (doi:10.1016/j.meegid.2010.07.003)
- Tratalos, Jamie A., Cheke, Robert A., Healey, Richard G. and Stenseth , Nils Chr. (2010) Desert locust populations, rainfall and climate change: insights from phenomenological models using gridded monthly data. Climate Research, 43 (3). pp. 229-239. ISSN 0936-577X (print), 1616-1572 (online) (doi:10.3354/cr00930)
- Tang, Sanyi, Tang, Guangyao and Cheke, Robert A. (2010) Optimum timing for integrated pest management: Modelling rates of pesticide application and natural enemy releases. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 264 (2). pp. 623-638. ISSN 0022-5193 (doi:10.1016/j.jtbi.2010.02.034)
- Cheke, Robert A., Meyer, Rolf R.F., Barro, Tele, Mas, Jordi, Sima, Anacleto Nsue, Abaga, Simon Ekwa, Noma, Mounkaila, Sékétéli, Azo V. and Wilson, Michael D. (2009) Towards the elimination of the Bioko form of Simulium yahense from Bioko: planning and insecticide trials. Acta Zoologica Lituanica, 19 (2). pp. 132-141. ISSN 1648-6919 (doi:10.2478/v10043-009-0013-8)
- Traoré, S., Wilson, M.D., Sima, A., Barro, T. et al. (2009) The elimination of the onchocerciasis vector from the island of Bioko as a result of larviciding by the WHO African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control. Acta Tropica, 111, pp. 211–218.
- Cheke, R.A., Fiasorgbor, G.K., Walsh, J.F. and Yameogo, L. (2008) Elimination of the Djodji form of the blackfly Simulium sanctipauli sensu stricto as a result of larviciding by the WHO Onchocerciasis Control Programme in West Africa. Medical & Veterinary Entomology 22, pp. 172–174.
- Tang, Sanyi and Cheke, Robert A. (2008) Models for integrated pest control and their biological implications. Mathematical Biosciences, 215 (1). pp. 115-125. ISSN 0025-5564 (doi:10.1016/j.mbs.2008.06.008)
- Tang, Sanyi, Xiao, Yanni and Cheke, Robert A. (2008) Multiple attractors of host-parasitoid models with integrated pest management strategies: eradication, persistence and outbreak. Theoretical Population Biology, 73 (2). pp. 181-197. ISSN 0040-5809 (doi:10.1016/j.tpb.2007.12.001)
- Cheke, Robert A., Venn, Jon F. and Jones, Peter J. (2007) Forecasting suitable breeding conditions for the red-billed quelea Quelea quelea in southern Africa. Journal of Applied Ecology, 44 (3). pp. 523-533. ISSN 0021-8901 (doi:10.1111/j.1365-2664.2007.01295.x)
- Cheke, Robert A. and Tratalos, Jamie A. (2007) Migration, patchiness and population processes illustrated by two migrant pests. BiosScience, 57 (2). pp. 145-154. ISSN 0006-3568 (doi:10.1641/B570209)
- Cheke, Robert A. (2007) Thinking long term. Science, 318 (5850). pp. 577-578. ISSN 0036-8075 (doi:10.1126/science.1150636)
- Morales-Hojas, R., Cheke, Robert A. and Post, R.J. (2007) A preliminary analysis of the population genetics and molecular phylogenetics of Onchocerca volvulus (Nematoda: Filarioidea) using nuclear ribosomal second internal transcribed spacer sequences. Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, 102 (7). pp. 879-882. ISSN 0074-0276 (doi:10.1590/S0074-02762007005000114)
- Morales-Hojas, R., Cheke, Robert A. and Post, R.J. (2006) Molecular systematics of five Onchocerca species (Nematoda: Filarioidea) including the human parasite, O. volvulus, suggest sympatric speciation. Journal of Helminthology, 80 (3). pp. 281-290. ISSN 0022-149X (doi:10.1079/JOH2006331)
- Tang, S., Xiao, Y., Chen, L. and Cheke, R.A. (2005) Integrated pest management models and their dynamical behaviour. Bulletin of Mathematical Biology, 67, pp. 115–135.
- Tang, S. and Cheke, R.A. (2005) State-dependent impulsive models of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies and their dynamic consequences. Journal of Mathematical Biology, 50, pp. 257–292.
- Dallimer, M., Jones, P.J., Pemberton, J.M. and Cheke, R. A. (2003) Lack of genetic and plumage differentiation in the red-billed quelea Quelea quelea across a migratory divide in southern Africa. Molecular Ecology, 12, pp. 345–353.
- Morales-Hojas, R., Post, R.J., Wilson, M.D. and Cheke, R.A. (2002) Completion of the sequence of the nuclear ribosomal DNA subunit of Simulium sanctipauli, with descriptions of the 18S, 28S genes and the IGS. Medical & Veterinary Entomology, 16, pp. 386–394.
- Morales-Hojas, R., Post, R.J., Cheke, R.A. and Wilson, M.D. (2002) Assessment of rDNA IGS as a molecular marker in the Simulium damnosum complex. Medical & Veterinary Entomology 16: 395–403.
- Wilson, M.D., Cheke, R.A., Flasse, S.P.J., Grist, S. et al. (2002) Deforestation and the spatio-temporal distribution of savannah and forest members of the Simulium damnosum complex in southern Ghana and south-western Togo. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene, 96, pp. 632–639.
- Todd, M.C., Washington, R., Cheke, R.A. and Kniveton, D. (2002) Brown locust outbreaks and climate variability in southern Africa. Journal of Applied Ecology, 39, pp. 31–42.
- Holt, J. and Cheke, R.A. (1996) Models of desert locust phase changes. Ecological Modelling, 91, pp.131–137.
- Cheke, R.A. (1995) Cycles in daily catches of members of the Simulium damnosum species complex. Tropical Medicine and Parasitology, 46, pp. 247–252.
- Cheke, R.A. and Holt, J. (1993) Complex dynamics of desert locust plagues. Ecological Entomology, 18, pp. 109–115.
- Millest, A.L., Cheke, R.A., Howe, M.A., Lehane, M.J. et al. (1992) Determining the ages of adult females of the Simulium damnosum complex (Diptera: Simuliidae) by the pteridine accumulation method. Bulletin of Entomological Research, 82, pp. 219–226.
- Cheke, R.A. (1990) A migrant pest in the Sahel: the Senegalese grasshopper Oedaleus senegalensis. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London series B, 328, pp. 539–553.
- Garms, R. and Cheke, R.A. (1985) Infections with Onchocerca volvulus in different members of the Simulium damnosum complex in Togo and Benin. Zeitschrift für angewandte Zoologie, 72, pp. 479–495.
- Cheke, R.A. and Garms, R. (1983) Reinfestations of the southeastern flank of the Onchocerciasis Control Programme area by windborne vectors. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London series B. 302, pp. 471–484.
- Cheke, R. A. (1978) Theoretical rates of increase of gregarious and solitarious populations of the desert locust. Oecologia, 35, pp. 161–171.
- Broadhead, E. and Cheke, R.A. (1975) Host spatial pattern, parasitoid interference and the modelling of the dynamics of Alaptus fusculus (Hym.: Mymaridae), a parasitoid of two Mesopsocus species (Psocoptera). Journal of Animal Ecology, 44, pp. 767–793.
- Cheke, R.A. (1974) Experiments on the effect of host spatial distribution on the numerical response of parasitoids. Journal of Animal Ecology, 43, pp. 107–114.
Recent Conference Presentations
- Cheke, R.A., Zhang, X. & Tang, S. (2016) Modelling control of mosquito dengue vectors by supplanting them with Wolbachia-infected populations. Abstract. 10th European Conference on Mathematical and Theoretical Biology and Society of Mathematical Biology Annual Meeting, Nottingham, UK, 11-15 July 2016. http://www.ecmtb2016.org/event/modelling-control-of-mosquito-dengue-vectors-by-supplanting-them-with-wolbachia-infected-populations-robert-cheke/
- Cheke, R.A., Young, S. & Garms, R. (2016) Ecological characteristics of Simulium breeding sites in West Africa. Abstract. Page 20 in I. Ruiz-Arrondo & I. de Blas Giral (eds.) Proc. 7th. International Simuliidae Symposium, Zaragosa, Spain, 5-8 Sept 2016.
- Routledge, I., Walker, M., Cheke, R.A. & Basañez, M.-G. (2016) Focal control of simuliid vectors for elimination of river blindness: where, when and how? Abstract. Page 29 in I. Ruiz-Arrondo & I. de Blas Giral (eds.) Proc. 7th. International Simuliidae Symposium, Zaragosa, Spain, 5-8 Sept 2016.
- Associate Member, Royal Society of Medicine
- Member, Society of Biology and Chartered Biologist
- Fellow, Linnean Society of London
- Fellow, Royal Entomological Society
- Fellow, Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
- Fellow, Higher Education Academy
- Member, British Ecological Society
- Member, British Society for Parasitology
- Member, British Ornithologists' Union (Member of Meetings Committee 1993–2005; Editor of Checklist series of books 2005–09)
- Member, British Ornithologists' Club (Committee Member 1991–95 and 2001–05); Chairman Publications Committee 1994–96; Member Publications Committee 1996–99 and 2001–02; Publications Officer 2004–09)
- Member, British Trust for Ornithology (Holder of Grade A Bird Ringing licence)
- Member, West African Ornithological Society (Regular Member, Editorial Board of Malimbus)
- Member, Editorial Board of Ecological Modelling, the journal of the International Society for Ecological Modelling, 1995–2003
- Member, WHO Scientific Working Group on Insect Disease Vectors and Human Health, 2002
- External member of appointments panel for population biologists 'Concourse de Chargé de Recherche CR2 3' for the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), June 2012.
- 1970: D'Arcy Thompson medal, University of St. Andrews.
- 2001: Book by Cheke, R.A., and Mann, C.F. (2001) Sunbirds. A Guide to the Sunbirds, Flowerpeckers, Spiderhunters and Sugarbirds of the World. London: Christopher Helm, A&C Black (ISBN 1873403801)
- 2002_03: New Haven: Yale University Press (ISBN 0300089406) was the Birdwatch magazine Bird Book of the Year winner for 2003 and was short-listed for the British Birds/British Trust for Ornithology Best Bird Book of the Year 2002.
Professor Robert Cheke
Natural Resources Institute
University of Greenwich
Central Avenue, Chatham Maritime, Kent ME4 4TB, United Kingdom.