Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
About us Practical matters How to find us H.L. (Hannah) Dugdale, Prof

H.L. (Hannah) Dugdale, Prof

Chair of Evolutionary Medicine, Rosalind Franklin Fellow

Group members & research interests

PhD students

Sen Dong, University of Groningen (supervised with Jan Komdeur)

The genetic basis of senescence and personality: The exact nature of the relationship between personality and senescence variation is still not understood. Sen Dong’s research delves into the genetic foundations of senescence and personality traits using the Seychelles warbler. By combining phenotype data (exploration behaviour and age-related reproductive output) with genomic information, Sen aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the interplay between personality and senescence. 

Callista Aikens University of East Anglia (supervised with David Richardson, David Monk & Martin Taylor)

Epigenetic clocks of biological age and the intergenerational consequences of ageing in a vertebrate population: Individuals biologically age at a rate non-linear to their chronological age. However most previous studies overlook this fact and use chronological age rather than biological age to investigate intergenerational effects of parental age at conception. Callista will develop an epigenetic clock to accurately determine biological age and investigate how this impacts offspring and later generations.

Yuheng Sun University of Groningen (co-supervised by Simon Griffith & Julia Schroeder)

Inter-generational ageing in house sparrows: Reproducing at old age has fitness disadvantages in progeny, this inter-generational ageing effect is critical for the evolution of late reproduction and longevity. However, the mechanism(s) underlying this effect remain unknown. Yuheng will use a wild, insular house sparrow population to tackle this question. In particular, she will focus on telomere lengths and early-life environmental conditions and their relationship with the inter-generational ageing effect.

Claire Tsui, University of Groningen (co-supervised by David Richardson)

Quantitative Genetics and Genomics of Senescence: There is huge variation in the onset and rate of senescence not only within individuals of the same population, but also across traits within the individual itself. Claire’s research aims to understand the factors causing variation in senescence. In particular, she will first study the asynchrony of senescence in phenotypic traits in various groups such as behavioural, reproductive and physiological traits, and then investigate the quantitative genetics and genomics of traits that senesce.

Sergio González-Mollinedo , University of Groningen (co-supervised by David Richardson & Simon Griffith)

Genomics of inbreeding depression, senescence and mitochondrial performance: Inbreeding depression is a major problem in small and isolated populations, which translates to reduced fitness and survival. Sergio will explore the links between inbreeding depression, senescence and mitochondrial performance in the Seychelles warblers and captive species in Australia at the genomic level. His research might shed light not only to what mechanisms might drive senescence in birds, but also contribute to the overarching knowledge about the implications of inbreeding depression.

Alessandro Pinto , University of East Anglia (supervised with David Richardson & Cock van Oosterhout)

Understanding lifelong and multigenerational inbreeding effects in the Seychelles warbler. Inbreeding is an issue in most threatened species, yet its exact impact is poorly quantified. In populations that have undergone fragmentation and bottlenecking like the Seychelles warbler the effects of inbreeding depression are exacerbated. Alessandro is using the life history, pedigree, and genomic data of the birds on Cousin island to quantify the fitness effects of different levels of inbreeding, from a multi – generational perspective.

Chuen Zhang Lee , University of East Anglia (supervised with David Richardson & Falk Hildebrand)

The gut microbiome, senescence and mortality in an isolated vertebrate population: Chuen’s research focuses on the functional gut microbiome variation in relation to senescence, fitness, and mortality in a population free from any confounds caused by captivity and medical or health interventions. His goal is to determine changes in the gut microbiome using metagenomics to predict functional variation in the Seychelles warbler as individuals become older. A better understanding of the gut microbiome is linked to senescence will allow people to design ways to optimise the gut microbiome, mitigate negative effects and promote healthy ageing.

Frigg Speelman , University of Groningen (co-supervised by David Richardson & Simon Griffith)

Fitness benefits and heritability of long-term partnerships:  In socially monogamous species, pair-bonds may persist over multiple breeding seasons, which can have important fitness consequences. Therefore, partnerships are of fundamental evolutionary importance, yet studies predominantly focus on the benefits of extra-pair copulations, making the framework of life-history evolution with regard to partnerships incomplete. Frigg is exploring why some partnerships are maintained whereas others are not using the socially monogamous Seychelles warbler as a model system.

Euan Young , University of Groningen (co-supervised by Virpi Lummaa & Erik Postma)

Quantitative Genetics of Human Life-History: Why do we age and why do some individuals age faster than others? To answer these fundamental questions, Euan is using human archival datasets (historical rural Finns and the Swiss canton of Glarus) in a quantitative genetics framework. In particular, he is interested in the life history trade-offs underlying senescence; the interaction of genetic and environmental factors on senescence patterns; and how these changed across the demographic transition.

Janet Chik, University of Groningen (co-supervised by Simon Griffith & Julia Schroeder)

Sociality and senescence in house sparrows: ‘Why do organisms senesce differently’ has been a long-standing puzzle for evolutionary biologists. Senescence can be influenced by energy trade-offs, and these trade-offs can in turn be influenced by social interactions. Janet is investigating the apparent effects of sociality on senescence, as well as the evolutionary links between the two, using social networks from a long-term house sparrow population. In addition, she is also examining the potential impacts of heavy metal pollution on senescence and sociality in house sparrows.

Marianthi Tangili, University of Groningen (supervised with Simon Verhulst & Per Palsboll )

DNA methylation as an epigenetic clock of biological age: DNA methylation as an epigenetic clock of biological age: Determining an individual’s biological age is vital for understanding the ageing process, yet developing a comprehensive biomarker has proven difficult. DNA methylation (DNAm) changes with age, recently developed DNAm scores correlate strongly with chronological age in humans and a few other organisms and most importantly, individuals with a high DNAm score for their age appear to have a higher biological age. Marianthi aims to develop a novel DNAm score to robustly predict the biological age of zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) and investigate whether environmental manipulations known to affect ageing similarly affect DNAm dynamics.

Masters students

Mariia Vlasova, University of Groningen (co-supervised by Yuheng Sun and Janet Chik)

Meta-analysis on parental age effects on telomere length: Telomeres, repeating DNA sequences at chromosome ends, shorten with age and serve as a biomarker of senescence. Studying factors influencing telomere length can help understand individual senescence rates, with parental age at conception being one such factor. This project aims to conduct a meta-analysis on parental age effects on offspring telomere length in vertebrates by synthesising existing evidence of maternal and paternal age at conception on offspring telomere lengths.

Julia de Lange, University of Groningen (co-supervised by Janet Chik)

Lead pollution in house sparrows and the effect on their vigilance: Unhealthy amounts of the heavy metal lead in the body can potentially influence behaviour with a variety of outcomes, be it a good or a bad effect. Julia uses data from video recordings of captive house sparrows with different induced levels of lead in their system to investigate the effect of lead pollution on the birds' behaviour, in particular vigilance. This research can aid our understanding of the adaptation of wild-life to urbanization as wild-life cohabiting with humans will be an increasing topic of interest for society.

León van Dorp, University of Groningen (co-supervised by Euan Young)

Age dependent costs of reproduction: Why we age, and why some of us age faster than others is one of the key unresolved questions in evolutionary biology. One theory posits that this is due to a trade-off between reproductive investment and somatic maintenance. Current methods to investigate the age dependent costs of reproduction contain survival biases and ignore mortality that occurs earlier in life. León is studying these largely overlooked costs of reproduction in human females, using event history analysis with pre-industrial Finnish genealogy records. 


Maaike Versteegh, University of Groningen

Seychelles warbler database manager: Maaike completed her PhD on “Physiology in a life history perspective: stonechats’ adaptations to different environments” in 2012 at the University of Groningen. After her PhD, Maaike obtained a research assistant position at the University of Groningen. Maaike oversees the Seychelles warbler MS Access database, importing data and error checking it, maintains the Seychelles warbler ArcGIS GeoDatabase, and will be updating the Seychelles warbler genetic pedigree.

Marco van der Velde, University of Groningen

Seychelles warbler molecular technician: Marco completed his PhD on the “Genetic structure of the moss genus Polytrichum” at the University of Groningen in 2000. Marco then went on to complete a post-doc and obtained a research assistant position at the University of Groningen. Marco supports the Dugdale Research Group by conducting the DNA extractions, molecular sexing and microsatellite genotyping of the Seychelles warblers. Marco also conducts qPCR telomere length assays for the Broken Hill house sparrow population.

Thijs Janzen, University of Groningen

Bioinformatician: Thijs is a scientific programmer in the theoretical evolutionary biology group at the University of Groningen. Thijs is providing bioinformatics support to the Dugdale Research Group, in particular, quality controlling the long-term storage of our whole genome sequence data of the Seychelles warbler population on Cousin Island, Seychelles. Thijs is also supporting our genomic analyses of this large dataset, for example, the running of our pipeline to determine SNPs and our scripts for calculating genome-wide inbreeding on the HPC.


Completed molecular ecology technician

Natalie dos Remedios , University of Sheffield

Genotyping of acorn woodpeckers: Acorn woodpeckers are cooperative breeders that can live in groups with multiple breeders of both sexes. This makes parentage assignment tricky as neither parent is known a priori. Natalie conducted laboratory work to genotype the long-term Hastings Natural History Reservation population of acorn woodpeckers. She developed techniques to extract DNA from historic feather samples going back to the 1970s. By genotyping several thousand birds with lifetime data we can now investigate the heritability of helping behaviour.

Completed database manager

Owen Howison , University of Groningen (supervised with Jan Komdeur)

Seychelles warbler database manager: Owen has an MSc degree in biology and 30+ years experience in using databases, GIS and satellite imagery for natural resource management. His main role was controlling data input into the Seychelles warbler database, running checks on data credibility and correcting errors. Owen was also responsible for maintaining data on the Seychelles Warbler wiki, and assisting students to write queries to extract data from the database.

Completed post-docs

Joana Sabino Pinto, University of Groningen (collaboration with Martine Maan & Ido Pen)

Fungus, Frogs, and MHC: the role of sexual selection in the evolution of disease resistance. For populations to survive they have to evolve resistance to incoming diseases. Joana explored the extent of sexual selection's contribution to this evolution using frogs and the emerging infectious disease chytridiomycosis. Particularly, she researched whether individuals have preference for mates with alleles that confer resistance to the disease, and whether mate preferences change with infection.

Alex Sparks , University of Leeds (in collaboration with David Richardson)

Genomics of senescence: Individuals senesce differently, but the causes remain poorly understood. Alex used quantitative genetic analyses to investigate the additive genetic basis of telomere length in the Seychelles warbler, and how parental age at concpetion influences offpsring telomere length. She also investigated parental age effects on offspring fitness. Her work has been published in Molecular Ecology and as a pre-print EcoEvoRxiv . Alex developed our pipeline for analysis of whole genome sequences. Alex is also interested in how early-life conditions and life history decisions influence senescence.

Elisa Perez Badas , University of Leeds (in collaboration with David Macdonald, Chris Newman & Christina Buesching)

Early-life conditions and senescence: Despite a recent surge in research in ageing biology, the drivers that underlie ageing in natural populations are still poorly understood. Elisa used longitudinal data from a natural population of European badgers to study the effect of the early-life environment on reproductive senescence. This will provide insights into the evolution of senescence and how individuals can adapt to changing environments. Elisa is also leading research into the under-representation of female scientists by investigating the effect of double-blind peer-review on the editorial process.

Margarete Utz, University of Groningen (supervised with Franjo Weissing and Jan Komdeur)

Individual variation in dispersal: In many organisms individuals differ systematically in their dispersal behaviour. Dispersal may then be correlated with other behaviours such as aggression, but the direction of this correlation may differ between species. Margarete developed analytical models and individual based simulations to investigate why these differences in dispersal syndromes arise, and what the consequences are for social evolution and mate choice, using a theoretical approach.

Completed PhD students

Ellie Chesterton , University of Leeds (co-supervised by David Richardson & Simon Goodman)

Individual variation in reproductive success in the Seychelles warbler: The evolution of cooperation is a topic of great interest to behavioural ecologists. Ellie studied the relative effect of genetic, social and environmental conditions on reproductive success in the Seychelles warbler. Specifically, Ellie looked at how the social environment impacts fitness, how reproductive success differs between the two sexes, and single-generation fitness proxies as predictors of long-term genetic contributions.

Tara Cox , University of Leeds (co-supervised by Terry Burke & Liz Duncan)

Causes and consequences of personality in the Seychelles warbler: Animal ‘personalities’ describe consistent differences between individuals in behavioural traits. Tara researched whether personality traits, such as exploration and avoidance, are associated with varying life-history strategies that are seen in the Seychelles warbler. Tara investigated but found no evidence of exploration being underpinned by intrinsic state. She found evidence of personality-dependent natal dispersal, and an absence of the pace-of-life syndrome.

Tom Brown , University of East Anglia (supervised with David Richardson & Martin Taylor)

Biomarkers of senescence in the Seychelles warbler: Why individuals of the same chronological age vary in biological age is not well understood. Biomarkers that reflect age-related declines in condition are the key to understanding this variation. Tom tested which biomarkers of biological age best predict future survival and breeding success in the Seychelles warbler, and whether variation in these biomarkers can be explained by environmental and social factors (e.g. Ecology & Evolution ). This knowledge will help guide interventions that could prolong healthy life.

Michela Busana , University of Groningen (supervised with Jan Komdeur David Richardson Terry Burke and Franjo Weissing)

Population dynamics and dispersal: Individuals differ in their dispersal behaviour, from their natal territory to their breeding location. These differences are influenced by the social environment, which impacts fitness and population dynamics. Michela’s PhD combined experimental fieldwork with mathematical modelling. Michela investigated how social interactions influence dispersal decisions in the cooperatively breeding Seychelles warbler, and the consequences this has on population dynamics. Michela’s work has been published in: Journal of Animal Ecology and Behavioral Ecology .

Charli Davies , University of East Anglia (supervised with David Richardson & Martin Taylor)

Antagonistic effects and the maintenance of genetic variation: Genetic variation is crucial in maintaining the adaptive potential of populations. Variation is particularly important when considering immune genes, determining the ability of individuals to combat pathogens and thus influencing their survival. Charli investigated how different mechanisms – including antagonistic effects on survival and reproduction – interact to maintain genetic variation at various immune genes within the Seychelles warbler. Charli’s work has been published in Molecular Ecology .

Laura Najera Cortazar , University of Leeds (supervised with Simon Goodman; assessed by Mary O’Connell)

Ecological genomics and speciation boundaries in the Myotis bats: How do environmental and ecological variation influence patterns of gene flow? Laura investigated populaiton genetic structure and species boundaries by studying genomic variation of a Myotis bat complex and their ectoparasite community along the 1300 km length of the Baja California Peninsular in Mexico. By analysing spatial and genomic variation within and among the Myotis species Laura improved our understanding of their ecological differentiation and environmental adaptations.

Sil van Lieshout , University of Leeds (co-supervised by Amanda Bretman & Keith Hamer; assessed by Simon Goodman)

Early-life environment effects on telomere dynamics in European badgers: Organismal senescence is the irreversible accumulation of damage with age that results in a loss of function and eventual death. There is enormous individual variation in senescence. Sil’s research assessed how environmental and social factors influence biomarkers of senescence (telomere length & telomere shortening). This will improve knowledge on the evolution of senescence and the ability of individuals to cope with environmental change. Sil’s research has been published in: Molecular Ecology , Methods in Ecology & Evolution , Biology Letters , Journal of Evolutionary Biology and Molecular Ecology .

Paula Marjamäki , University of Exeter (supervised by Alastair Wilson, Robbie McDonald & Dez Delahay; Hannah supervised 2 of Paula’s PhD chapters)

Genetic variation of TB infection in European badgers: Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) affects cattle and a wide range of host species, such as badgers, with large economic consequences. The susceptibility of individual hosts to disease can have a genetic basis. Paula quantified the genetic basis of bTB susceptibility and disease progression in badgers. Hannah advised Paula on the construction of a molecular genetic pedigree of the Woodchester Park badger population. Paula’s work from this collaboration has been published in: Behavioral Ecology and Journal of Evolutionary Biology .

Sara Raj Pant , University of East Anglia & Groningen (supervised with David Richardson & Jan Komdeur)

Evolutionary forces underlying promiscuity in the Seychelles warbler: Promiscuity is commonplace, even in supposedly monogamous species, yet the evolutionary forces acting on this behaviour are rarely quantified. This is important as promiscuity has widespread effects on key factors such as reproductive skew, gene flow and sexual selection. Sara investigated the causes and consequences of individual variation in promiscuity in the Seychelles warbler to improve our understanding of why this is maintained. Sara’s research has been published in: Behavioral Ecology and Molecular Ecology

Hannah Edwards, University of Sheffield (supervised with Terry Burke)

Personalities and fitness: Individuals vary consistently in their behaviour resulting in different ‘personalities’. Hannah Edwards estimated the heritability of and selection on personality traits in the Seychelles warbler, to understand how multiple personalities are maintained in a population. She demonstrated no relationship between Seychelles warbler personality and SERT or DRD4 genetic variation. Additionally, Hannah showed that exploration is linked to reproductive rather than social status in Seychelles warblers. Hannah’s PhD research has been published in: Behavioral Ecology (2018), Behavioral Ecology (2017), Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology and PLoS ONE

Ant je Girndt , MPI Seeweisen & Imperial College London (PhD advisory committee: Julia Schroeder, Hannah Dugdale & Hanne Løvlie)

Age, extra-pair mating strategies and fitness: Mating strategies vary between species, populations, individuals, and even within an individual. In birds, older males often sire more offspring with multiple females than younger males. However, it is unclear whether males become more polygamous when growing old or the effect arises because older males simply live longest. Antje’s PhD focused on extra-pair reproduction in birds to explore how age explains individual variation in fitness.

Nick Beckley , Imperial College London (Hannah advised Nick on pedigree construction)

Pseudo-vertical transmission of Mycobacterium bovis: European badgers are a wildlife reservoir of M. bovis, which causes bovine TB. Badgers can transmit M. bovis to other badgers through the air and close contact, but the importance of these routes is mainly unknown. Nick and Hannah built a genetic pedigree that Nick used to test: 1) the proportion of badgers culled during the RBCT proactive trial, 2) whether mothers transmit bTB to their cubs through close contact, (which is known as pseudo-vertical transmission), and 3) the impact of the RBCT closed season on cub welfare. This work will help inform vaccination strategies.

Els Atema , The Netherlands Institute of Ecology (Hannah advised Els on quantitative genetic analyses)

Heritability of telomere length: Telomeres are repeated DNA sequences that are located at the end of chromosomes. The length of the telomere is heritable, however, this is often calculated through a parent-offspring regression, which confounds genetic and environmental variation and can inflate heritability estimates. Els estimated the heritability of telomere length in zebra finches and investigated how the heritability varies with the methods and models used to estimate it. This research was published in the Journal of Ornithology.

Simon (Yung Wa) Sin , University of Oxford (supervised with David Macdonald & Chris Newman)

MHC, mate choice and parasite resistance: The major histocompatibility complex (MHC) is a cluster of genes that mediate an adaptive immune response. Simon has demonstrated that diversity in the MHC of the European badger has resulted from different evolutionary processes (trans-species polymorphism and concerted evolution). Simon demonstrated that MHC diversity may be driven by pathogen-mediated selection and that MHC-assortative mate choice occurs in badgers. This research was published in: Molecular Ecology (2015), Molecular Ecology (2014), Ecology and Evolution , PLoS ONE , and Immunogenetics.

Geetha Annavi , University of Oxford (supervised with David Macdonald & Chris Newman)

Genetic diversity, fitness and mate choice: The relationship between genetic diversity and fitness in wild populations provides an insight into selection and evolutionary processes. Geetha’s work showed that European badger cubs with heterozygous fathers have greater survival in wet years compared to cubs with more homozygous fathers. Her thesis correlated extra-group paternity (EGP) with survival advantages and showed sexually antagonistic lifetime reproductive benefits of EGP. This research was published in: Journal of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Evolution, and Conservation Genetics Resources.

Completed visiting PhD students

Eva de la Peña, University of Córdoba (supervised with Elisa Perez Badas Alex Sparks Eric Walters and Joey Haydock)

Early-life conditions and reproductive success in acorn woodpeckers: Acorn woodpeckers are a cooperative breeders, that exhibit a complex mating system. How early-life environmental conditions influence the lifetime reproductive success of individuals is unknown. Eva studied the effect of natal environmental conditions, clutch characteristics and group composition on lifetime reproductive success in female and male acorn woodpeckers.

Completed Masters students (since 2014)

Elizabeth Los, University of Groningen (co-supervised by Claire Tsui)

Ageing in feather quality in Seychelles warblers: Senescence reduces performance and increases the probability of death of an organism due to the physiological deterioration of traits with advancing age, yet not much is known about the processes behind senescence. Elizabeth used feathers of Seychelles warblers to explore the effect of ageing on different aspects of the trait of feather quality. Ageing in feather quality might shed some light onto the trade-offs that are expected to exist between growth, reproduction and plumage maintenance.

Henk van der Meulen, University of Groningen (co-supervised by Joana Sabino Pinto)

Effect of a fungal pathogen on mate preference in frogs: Worldwide, amphibians are being threatened by the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium. As the pathogen rapidly spread across the earth in the past decades, little is known about the mechanisms that could drive adaptation to its presence. Henk studied how sexual selection could give rise to resistance in the presence of Batrachochytrium infection in the poison frog Dendrobates auratus in Panama, for which the MHC region, a gene complex involved in the immune system, was used.

Constantina Georgiade, University of Groningen (co-supervised by Frigg Speelman)

Does group living promote partnership stability?: Group living is often beneficial to individuals, however, how group living and long-term partnership are linked is still largely understudied. Seychelles warblers are cooperatively breeding birds that live in groups with a dominant breeding pair and subordinates of both sexes that may or may not help raise the offspring of the dominants. Constantina used the long-term Seychelles warbler dataset to assess whether group size and helper presence were linked to mate fidelity and pair bond duration. The results contributed to disentangling the evolution of long-term partnerships and fidelity in cooperatively breeding species.

Mark Spa, University of Groningen (co-supervised by Euan Young , Virpi Lummaa & Erik Postma)

Are siblings helpers or competitors?: Individuals seem to both benefit and suffer from the presence of older siblings, these effects could depend on the sex and the number of older siblings. Questions like how older siblings can affect survival and reproductivity remain, but if answered could increase our understanding of the cooperation found in humans. Therefore, in this project Mark used a historical dataset of human life history from Swiss canton of Glarus to examine these questions.

Agus Bentlage, University of Groningen (co-supervised by Frigg Speelman)

Environmental effects on long-term partnerships: Social monogamy is common across the animal kingdom, but sub-optimal social partnerships can end in divorce. There are still major knowledge gaps on the environmental stressors that can drive divorce. Agus used the long-term Seychelles warbler dataset to investigate the environmental effects linked with divorce likelihood. The results are important for understanding the effect of the environment and climate change on partnership stability socially monogamous species. Additionally, the results inform the conservation management of the Seychelles warbler providing understanding of how climate change affects their breeding behaviour.

Sofia Jiménez Ochoa, University of Groningen (co-supervised by Elisa Perez Badas)

Testing the Predictive Adaptive Response (PAR) in badgers: Early-life conditions can have long-lasting negative effects on an individual’s somatic state, reflected in health problems later in life or affecting reproductive behaviour. The “Silver spoon” and “PAR” are two important and non-exclusive hypotheses that predict these relationships. Sofía used data from the long-term study of a wild European badger population (Meles Meles) to test these hypotheses. She used telomere data as a biological marker for somatic state in early and adult life, with environmental variables, to test whether they are related to reproductive success and survival of individuals.

Ege Pehlivanoglu , University of Groningen (co-supervised by Euan Young, Erik Postma, Virpi Lummaa)

How does family size vary across social classes and time?: Life-history traits such as fertility are closely related to resource availability. Evolutionary theory predicts that individuals with high resources produce more offspring. However, in contrast, human family size began to decrease in higher social classes after the demographic transition. Ege focused on an interdisciplinary explanation for this paradox with the church records from the Swiss canton of Glarus, spanning 450 years. She used a novel HISCAM score method to devise the social status of individuals. Her study merged different perspectives from behavioural ecology, biological anthropology, human evolution & social sciences.

Kiran Lee, University of Groningen (co-supervised by Antica Culina, Dieter Lukas, Adele Mennerat, and Alecia Carter)

Selection in academia: Academia needs diversity. To improve variation in the academic pool of researchers, we need to uncover structural biases that select against diversity. Kiran’s research explored gender biases in publication rate, and how the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these biases. He took a meta-analytical approach using published studies to investigate selection in academia associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and how this has a negative impact on diversity. Kiran’s MSc research was published in eLife .

Freddie Mckendrick, University of Leeds (co-supervised by Tara Cox)

Personality and pace-of-life syndromes in the Seychelles warbler: The pace-of-life hypothesis posits that life-history, physiological and behavioural traits covary along a slow-fast continuum. Freddie’s research investigated phenotypic correlations, as predicted by the pace-of-life theory, among one life-history trait (age of first dominance) and two behavioural traits (provisioning rate, exploration) in the Seychelles warbler. This will develop our current understanding of both the ultimate and proximate causes of trait correlation within the pace-of-life hypothesis.

Georgia Warren, University of Leeds (supervised with Elisa Perez Badas; in collaboration with David Macdonald, Chris Newman & Christina Buesching)

Social effects on coccidia transmission in European badgers: At high population densities European badgers form social groups, sharing setts. In these social groups, breeding females provide both parental and alloparental care to cubs, aiding in their upbringing but increasing social interactions between mothers and cubs sharing a sett. Georgia analysed faecal samples collected between 2016-2017 to assess whether increased social interactions through alloparental care influence coccidia infection rates.

Rachelle Demetrick, University of Leeds (supervised with Alex Sparks)

Heritability of wing length in Seychelles warblers: Understanding the evolution of traits requires an understanding of their phenotypic and additive genetic basis. Wing length is a trait that can change with age, and can influence flying styles and the survival of individuals. Rachelle used the long-term Seychelles warbler dataset to test if wing length changes with age, and whether wing length is heritable. Rachelle showed that wing-length senesces, and that it is moderatly heritable, with observer effects detected.

Michael Mason, University of Leeds (supervised with Elisa Perez Badas & Sil van Lieshout; in collaboration with David Macdonald, Chris Newman & Christina Buesching)

Immuno-senescence in European badgers: The onset and rate of immuno-senescence varies considerably between individuals, yet, our understanding of the social drivers predicted to shape this variation is limited. Michael used differential leukocyte counts from a population of European Badgers to investigate the effects of social environment on immuno-senescence. This will improve knowledge on the evolution of senescence and why individuals differ in lifespan. Michael’s MBiol research is available as a pre-print on EcoEvoRxiv and is published in Biology Letters .

University of Leeds (supervised with Elisa Perez Badas Eric Walters and Joey Haydock)

Direct fitness benefits of helping in acorn woodpeckers: The main fitness benefit of helping in acorn woodpeckers is thought to be indirect, via kin selection. Some direct fitness benefits, however, have yet to be researched. This project used a multigenerational genetic pedigree and long-term life-history dataset of acorn woodpeckers, in Hastings Reservation (USA) to investigate fitness benefits of helping. We tested the group augmentation and delayed reciprocity hypotheses to investigate direct fitness benefits of helping in acorn woodpeckers.

Inez Hein, University of Wageningen (supervised with Alex Sparks)

Immuno-senescence and load-lightening in Seychelles warblers: Inez conducted an MSc internship in our group. She first focused on individual differences in white blood cell counts. Inez created an inventory of the Seychelles warbler blood smears collected 2006-2017, and identified problems distinguishing leukocyte types using the Giemsa stain. She then used the long-term Seychelles warbler database to investigate load-lightening in egg volume, but found no significant effects other than lay order.

Ashleigh Atkinson, University of Leeds (supervised with Eric Walters and Joey Haydock)

Environmental effects on lifetime reproductive success in acorn woodpeckers: The Predictive Adaptive Response (PAR) hypothesis predicts that individuals experiencing similar early-life and later-life have maximised fitness than individuals whose conditions mismatch. Alternatively, the silver-spoon hypothesis predicts that individuals born in good environments will perform better than those from poor environments. Ashleigh tested the effects of early-life environmental conditions on the lifetime reproductive success (LRS) in acorn woodpeckers.

Tom Bellis, University of Leeds (supervised with Deborah Dawson; in collaboration with Scottish badgers)

Genetic origins of badgers on the Isle of Arran, Scotland: European badgers (Meles meles) in Western Europe were founded by a single refugial population, however, across the United Kingdom, the badger has localised genetic structure. The aim of this project was to understand where the badger population on the Isle of Arran was founded. Tom genotyped DNA samples from the Isle of Arran and mainland Scotland, and compared them to a database of genotypes from across Europe.

Amy Withers, University of Leeds (supervised with Deborah Dawson)

Conservation genetics of otters: To successfully conserve and protect species, understanding abundance and distribution is important. Otters rapidly declined in the UK due to river pollution and became extinct locally in many regions. However, recent legal protection and conservation efforts have improved river quality leading to otters returning. Amy identified and sexed individual otters using newly designed molecular markers to improve our understanding of the number, distribution and movements of otters along the River Don.

Shreya Goswami, University of Leeds

Pseudo-vertical transmission of coccidia in European badgers: Coccidiosis causes diarrhoeal enteritis, which impairs growth and increases mortality rates. Coccidia infection is higher in European badger cubs than adults. Badgers can recover from coccidia infection within 3 months but those that clear infections can become reinfected and transmission pathways are unknown. Shreya investigated whether maternal and allomaternal care resulted in pseudo-vertical transmission, between breeding females and cubs.

Tom Johnson, University of Leeds

Habitat use of translocated Seychelles warblers: The Seychelles warbler was once critically endangered, after a bottleneck of just 46 birds on one island. Conservation management, led by Nature Seychelles, has resulted in the down-listing of the warblers to near threatened, and they now occur on five islands. Tom’s project assessed the status of the population resulting from last translocation of 59 birds to Fregate island in 2011. In particular, Tom investigated habitat use and modelled the population growth rate to inform conservation management decisions. Tom’s Masters resulted in a publication in the Journal of Ornithology .

Nadia Jogee, University of Leeds (supervised with Catarina Vinagre)

Biomarkers of cellular stress in reef-building corals: Nadia’s project was in collaboration with MARE (Marine & Environmental Sciences Centre) at the University of Lisbon. Nadia used data from an experimental set up of reef-building corals. Five species of corals were kept at different temperatures, and Nadia used this experiment to investigate biomarkers of cellular stress with respect to temperature to improve our understanding of how these reef-building corals can respond to global change.

Simon Weigl, University of Konstanz (supervised with Julia Schroeder and Sjouke Kingma)

Selection pressures in cooperatively breeding bee-eaters (Merops apiaster): Correlates of breeding success: European bee-eaters are facultative cooperative breeders that nest in burrows in sand-cliffs. Simon mapped an island population of European bee-eaters, recording burrow and colony characteristics. Simon’s research project correlated these characteristics with breeding success. Simon’s fieldwork resulted in a publication in the Journal of Ornithology .

Last modified:10 June 2024 1.09 p.m.