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)
I am currently accepting PhDs in Biological and Environmental Sciences.
Please get in touch if you would like to discuss your research ideas further.
Biological and Environmental SciencesSupervising
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.
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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Direct and indirect phenotypic effects on sociability indicate potential to evolveJournal of Evolutionary BiologyContributions to Journals: Articles
Social associations in lactating dairy cows housed in a robotic milking systemApplied Animal Behaviour Science, vol. 249, 105589Contributions to Journals: Articles
Social Selection and the Evolution of MaladaptationJournal of Heredity, vol. 113, no. 1, pp. 61-68Contributions to Journals: Articles
Anticipated effects of abiotic environmental change on intraspecific social interactionsBiological Reviews, vol. 96, no. 6, pp. 2661-2693Contributions to Journals: Articles
Social selection is density dependent but makes little contribution to total selection in New Zealand giraffe weevilsProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol. 288, no. 1952, 20210696Contributions to Journals: Articles
Episodic correlations in behavioural lateralization differ between a poison frog and its mimicAnimal Behaviour, vol. 174, pp. 207-215Contributions to Journals: Articles
Multilayer network analysis: new opportunities and challenges for studying animal social systemsCurrent Zoology, vol. 67, no. 1, pp. 45-48Contributions to Journals: Articles
Using multilayer network analysis to explore the temporal dynamics of collective behaviorCurrent Zoology, vol. 67, no. 1, pp. 71-80Contributions to Journals: Articles
Orb-weaving spiders show a correlated syndrome of morphology and web structure in the wildBiological Journal of the Linnean Society, vol. 131, no. 2, pp. 449-463Contributions to Journals: Articles
The performance of permutations and exponential random graph models when analyzing animal networksBehavioral Ecology, vol. 31, no. 5, pp. 1266-1276Contributions to Journals: Articles