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 or to discuss opportunities to work with me.
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 am the program coordinator for the Animal Behaviour BSc.
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
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.
A simpler way to organize society: response to a risky stimulus is related to the spatial distribution of the individuals within a spider colonial webJournal of Insect BehaviorContributions to Journals: Articles
Dolphin social phenotypes vary in response to food availability but not the North Atlantic Oscillation indexProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol. 290, no. 2008Contributions to Journals: Articles
The eyes have it: The response of European Herring Gulls Larus argentatus to human eye-gazeBird StudyContributions to Journals: Articles
When do we start caring about insect welfare?Neotropical Entomology, vol. 52, no. 1, pp. 5-10Contributions to Journals: Review articles
Direct and indirect phenotypic effects on sociability indicate potential to evolveJournal of Evolutionary Biology, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 209-220Contributions to Journals: Articles
Prizes and Awards
2023: Christopher Barnard Award for Outstanding Contributions by a New Investigator (Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour)
2022: Principal's Prize for Outstanding Research and Engagement in the category ECR - STEM (University of Aberdeen)
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.
Practical Skills in Animal Behaviour (ZO3813) - Course Coordinator
Behavioural Ecology and Conservation (ZO4543) - Course Coordinator
Behavioural Biology (BI3505) - Lecturer
Experimental Design and Analysis (BI5012) - Lecturer
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Indirect genetic effects clarify how traits can evolve even when fitness does notEvolution Letters, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 4-14Contributions to Journals: Articles
Testing the effect of early‐life reproductive effort on age‐related decline in a wild insectEvolution, vol. 73, no. 2, pp. 317-328Contributions to Journals: Articles
Population differences in aggression are shaped by tropical cyclone-induced selectionNature Ecology & Evolution, vol. 3, pp. 1294-1297Contributions to Journals: Articles
A brief introduction to mixed effects modelling and multi-model inference in ecologyPeerJ, vol. 6, pp. 1-32Contributions to Journals: Articles
Lifespan and age, but not residual reproductive value or condition, are related to behaviour in wild field cricketsEthology, vol. 124, no. 5, pp. 338-346Contributions to Journals: Articles
Complex dynamics and the development of behavioural individualityAnimal Behaviour, vol. 138, pp. e1-6Contributions to Journals: Articles
Social traits, social networks and evolutionary biologyJournal of Evolutionary Biology, vol. 30, no. 12, pp. 2088-2103Contributions to Journals: Articles
A description of the gross pathology of drowning and other causes of mortality in seabirdsBMC Veterinary Research, vol. 13, 302Contributions to Journals: Articles
Understanding animal social structure: exponential random graph models in animal behaviour researchAnimal Behaviour, vol. 132, pp. 137-146Contributions to Journals: Articles
Determinants of Contests in Ugandan Female Ground-Nesting Bees (Tetralonia sp. n.)African Entomology, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 319-327Contributions to Journals: Articles