I was obsessed with animals from childhood and was very lucky to have a parent that happily indulged my passion. It was a logical choice to study Zoology when I finished school, and I graduated from the University of Southampton with a BSc in Zoology in 2011 before completing an MRes in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation at Imperial College London in 2013. After this, I moved on to a PhD at the University of Edinburgh, where my focus was on understanding how between-individual differences in movement and genetics contributed to variation in reproductive traits in female St Kilda Soay sheep. Post-PhD, I took a postdoctoral position in Saskatoon, Canada, where I explored the consequences of variation in the social environment for individual movement, fitness, and population dynamics in Sable Island horses, before moving on to my current position at the University of Oxford. In my current work, I study the responses of great tits to environmental variability occurring at small and large spatial scales.
Broadly, my research uses data from long-term individual-based studies of wild animal populations to understand how individual differences, whether genetically or environmentally derived, influence the performance of wild animals and what this means for the populations that these individuals are part of. I am particularly interested in how fine scale environmental variability (e.g., the quality of habitat around a nestbox) affects individual behaviour and success, how such differences in individual behaviour and reproduction affect the population as a whole, and how we can better factor such variability into our studies of population change. These questions are of huge interest to me in the context of human driven environmental change, such as climate change, due to the massive pressures that such changes are having on organisms across the globe.
Will climate change kill off the great tits?
Their distinctive 'teacher teacher' call is synonymous with British gardens, but great tits are facing a big problem - climate change. As our springtime becomes warmer and begins earlier, peak caterpillar abundance is also shifting earlier. As a crucial food source for great tit chicks, this is cause for concern. In this episode of the Big Questions Podcast, we catch up with ecologist Dr...