Dr Sinead English
School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol
Conditions experienced early in life, even in the womb, can have lasting effects on behaviour, life history and health. My research explores this topic using field studies, theoretical models, and laboratory experiments. I will give an overview of theoretical explanations for why individuals can be sensitive to early-life experiences and when mothers adaptively adjust their offspring's phenotype to face environmental conditions. I will also discuss how such maternal effects change as females get older, and the implications of such changes for their young. Finally, I will describe current research in the tsetse fly, vector of sleeping sickness. Tsetse provide an ideal model to study maternal effects and how they senesce, as they have enormous maternal investment – females give birth to live young as large as themselves – and are relatively long-lived. Our research aims, ultimately, to understand how the unusual life history of this vector shapes its population dynamics and the epidemiology of the disease it transmits.