David Stephen Blakeley, MPhil
Colleagues will be very sorry to learn of the death, on 12 March 2012, of Mr David Blakeley, former Co-ordinator of Masters Teaching in the Institute of Integrative and Comparative Biology, and later in the Graduate School, Faculty of Biological Sciences.
David joined the University as a trainee Technician in the then Department of Zoology in October 1968, just a few days after his sixteenth birthday. He very soon came to be seen as an able, promising and ambitious member of staff, and received substantial promotions on several occasions in the course of his long career at Leeds. During his first six years in post, he was primarily involved in the preparation of material for the Zoology teaching laboratories. In 1974, he transferred to a more supervisory role in Agricultural Zoology, where, assisting members of the academic staff and postgraduates, he also had his first exposure to research work. Appointed to a post in the Department of Anatomy in the following year, he worked on projects directed at increasing the understanding of brain function. During the 1970s, David also successfully completed all three parts of the City and Guilds Science Laboratory Technicians’ Certificate.
Returning to Zoology in 1979, David went on to assume the role of chief teaching technician. His commitment to the provision of a first-class service to staff and students was exemplary. With the merger of the Departments of Zoology and Plant Sciences in the late 1980s, his responsibilities underwent a substantial shift, with an increasing focus on research work. In addition to his many other attributes, David was an exceptionally capable entomologist, with a great depth of knowledge of insect biology and taxonomy. His expertise in this area was critical to the success of a number of research projects within the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation and the Centre for Plant Sciences. These included studies of the ecology and modelling of fig wasp communities and of resistance to potato pests, and major collaborative butterfly projects. David’s contributions to the development of experimental protocols and the collection, collation and interpretation of data were sufficiently significant for him to be named as co-author on a number of the scientific papers that came out of these projects. During this period, David successfully completed an MPhil research degree on overwintering in butterflies on a part-time basis, butterflies being for a long time a passion of his, before switching his interest to caddis flies. In the late 1990s, he also took on an involvement in undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and the co-supervision of undergraduate projects.
One of the by-products of David’s compendious knowledge of insects was that he periodically received requests from members of the public for help in examining and identifying specimens. Similarly, he was approached by the media from time to time on issues relating to insects.
From 2002 until his early retirement in 2010, David’s major role was as Administrator for the Biodiversity and Conservation Masters degrees. This description does not do justice to the range of contributions he made, which encompassed acting as secretary, technician, administrator, tutor and lecturer for the programmes. Equally significantly, he was the first port of call for students wanting advice on academic or any other matters, and the member of staff whom many students got to know best. Along with planning of time tables and field trips, organising of external speakers and collation of marks, he also handled the budgets of the Masters degrees. His skilled financial planning resulted in well-resourced programmes, able to cope with a rapid rise in the numbers of students. He also acted as secretary for meetings and was responsible for field health and safety issues. Recalling his earlier days as a technician, he also organised practical sessions in entomology, and acted as tutor and examiner during some of these. He was also involved in long-term planning of the curriculum. Recognising a gap in the Faculty’s teaching provision, he became proficient in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) techniques and then taught an introductory module on this subject. In addition, he undertook a number of managerial responsibilities, including recruitment, staff and student induction and the pastoral care of technical staff, within parts of the Manton and Miall Buildings. By the time of his retirement, David had risen to the Academic-Related grade after a lifetime of service to the University, his sole employer.
David is survived by his wife, Veronica.
We understand that a memorial event for David is likely to take place at a later date.