Dr David Fisher
Dr David Fisher

Dr David Fisher

PhD, AHEA, MRes, BSc

Research Fellow

Accepting PhDs



I study behaviour and the role it plays in evolutionary and ecological processes, with a particular focus on social interactions. My works involves observations of wild animals, experiments in invertebrates in the laboratory, as well as simulation studies and reviews of statistical methods such as social network analysis. I also have an interest in the importance of social interactions in plants, the welfare of captive and farmed invertebrates, and how changing climates impact animal populations. Please get in touch if you would like to know more

Previously I worked at McMaster University (Canada), looking at the heritability and evolution of group traits in social spiders, and at the University of Guelph (Canada), studying North American red squirrels in the Yukon. I completed my PhD at the University of Exeter (Cornwall campus), and my Masters at the University of Liverpool.

Memberships and Affiliations

Internal Memberships

I work on the School of Biological Sciences Retention committee, looking for ways we can improve student continuation rates.

External Memberships

I am the Pre-print Editor for Evolution Letters

I am a member of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology, the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour, the British Ecological Society, the Animal Welfare Research Network, and the British Arachnological Society.

Prizes and Awards

In 2022 I was awarded the Principal's Prize for Outstanding Research and Engagement in the category ECR (STEM)


Research Areas

Accepting PhDs

I am currently accepting PhDs in Biological and Environmental Sciences.

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss your research ideas further.

Email Me

Biological and Environmental Sciences

Accepting PhDs

Research Specialisms

  • Evolution
  • Animal Behaviour
  • Ecology
  • Applied Statistics

Our research specialisms are based on the Higher Education Classification of Subjects (HECoS) which is HESA open data, published under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence.

Current Research

I am currently combining the analysis existing data, the running and analysing pilot studies, and setting up experimental systems. I am analysing long-term study of bottlenose dolphins with researchers at Lighthouse Field station. We are exploring how individual social network traits respond to climate and influence fitness at different levels of social organisation.

I am also developing a cockroach system in the laboratory to explore the ecology and evolution of social interactions. This system is being used to explore questions in dispersal behaviour, disease transmission, and animal welfare.

With colleagues in SBS I am also developing a beadlet anemone system to explore plasticity and adaption in response to hydrocarbon pollution. We have conducted one pilot study and one set of field work to explore how anemones plastically respond to hydrocarbon pollution using various ‘omics approaches, and how populations around the coast of Scotland have evolved in response to different levels of historic hydrocarbon pollution.

Finally, I am working with researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark to identify how social spiders respond to pathogens with ‘omics approaches.

Past Research

My research in the last three years has focused on identifying the role social interactions play in evolutionary change. This has involved exploring indirect genetic effects and multilevel selection in North American red squirrels, social selection in New Zealand giraffe weevils, and several theoretical papers.

I have also recently reviewed how all kinds of social interactions are influenced by changing climates. I am currently starting new projects to explore this topic further.

Alongside the focus on social interactions, I have also been exploring the ecology and evolution of complex traits more generally. This has led to studying selection and heritability of group-level phenotypes in social spiders, and the integration of extended phenotypes into life-history syndromes and fitness components in spiders in Ecuador and North American red squirrels.

Finally, I have worked on cutting edge analytical methods in ecology and evolution. I have reviewed new statistical approaches for analysing social networks and integrating networks and animal behaviour and I was part of a team that published a guide on applying mixed-effects models to ecology and evolution.


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  • The performance of permutations and exponential random graph models when analyzing animal networks

    Evans, J. C., Fisher, D. N., Silk, M. J.
    Behavioral Ecology, vol. 31, no. 5, pp. 1266-1276
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Territory acquisition mediates the influence of predators and climate on juvenile red squirrel survival

    Hendrix, J. G., Fisher, D. N., Martinig, A. R., Boutin, S., Dantzer, B., Lane, J. E., McAdam, A. G.
    Journal of Animal Ecology, vol. 89, no. 6, pp. 1408-1418
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Assessing the repeatability, robustness to disturbance, and parent–offspring colony resemblance of collective behavior

    Fisher, D. N., Lichtenstein, J. L. L., Costa‐Pereira, R., Yeager, J., Pruitt, J. N.
    Journal of Evolutionary Biology, vol. 33, no. 4, pp. 410-421
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Insights from the study of complex systems for the ecology and evolution of animal populations

    Fisher, D. N., Pruitt, J. N.
    Current Zoology, vol. 66, no. 1, pp. 1-14
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Behavioral and physiological evidence that increasing group size ameliorates the impacts of social disturbance

    Anderson, H. M., Little, A. G., Fisher, D., McEwen, B. M., Culbert, B. M., Balshine, S., Pruitt, J. N.
    Journal of Experimental Biology, vol. 223, no. 14, jeb217075
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Collective aggressiveness limits colony persistence in high- but not low-elevation sites at Amazonian social spiders

    Lichtenstein, J., Fisher, D., McEwen, B., Nondorf, D., Calvache, E., Schmitz, C., Elässer, J., Pruitt, J.
    Journal of Evolutionary Biology, vol. 32, no. 12, pp. 1362-1367
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Collective behaviour is not robust to disturbance, yet parent and offspring colonies resemble each other in social spiders

    Fisher, D. N., Lichtenstein, J. L., Costa-Pereira, R., Yeager, J., Pruitt, J. N.
    . 31 pages.
    Other Contributions: Other Contributions
  • Dynamic networks of fighting and mating in a wild cricket population

    Fisher, D., Rodríguez-Muñoz, R., Tregenza, T.
    Animal Behaviour, vol. 155, pp. 179-188
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Egg discrimination is mediated by individual differences in queen olfactory responsiveness and boldness

    Wright, C., McEwen, B., Fisher, D., Lichtenstein, J., Antoun, A., Tibbetts, E., Pruitt, J.
    Behavioral Ecology, vol. 30, no. 5, pp. 1306-1313
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
  • Foundress number, but not queen size or boldness, predicts colony life-history in wild paper wasps

    Wright, C., Fisher, D., Nerone, W., Lichtenstein, J., Tibbetts, E., Pruitt, J.
    Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, vol. 128, no. 1, pp. 20-29
    Contributions to Journals: Articles
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Chapters in Books, Reports and Conference Proceedings

Contributions to Journals

Other Contributions