I am an evolutionary biologist and behavioural ecologist, with a particular research focus on the role of social interactions, particularly parental care, on an animal's ability to cope with a rapidly changing world.
What makes some populations of animals more resilient to climate change than others?
How might an evolutionary history of social interactions confer resilience in the face of catastrophe?
What kinds of adaptations do we see in animals when their environment changes for the worse?
Are these adaptations permanent and fixed, or could they thrive in their original environment given the chance?
Climate change, habitat degradation and excessive use of antibiotics and pesticides pose severe threats to natural populations, so an ability to predict how populations respond to environmental perturbations is becoming ever more important. Understanding how a population’s evolutionary history affects its future resilience could therefore play a vital role in mitigation strategies.
Existing theory makes two contrasting predictions:
(1) populations that have previously been exposed to stronger selection filters consist of hardier individuals and will be therefore more resilient to future extreme events; and
(2) populations that have been exposed to more relaxed selection in their evolutionary past will have greater standing genetic variation and thus greater resilience to extreme events. Whether these predictions also apply to populations that have been exposed to differential selection through social interactions is largely unknown.
Using the burying beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides, as a study system, I am investigating whether the evolutionary history of parental care in a population affects its resilience, and capacity for adaptation, in novel environments. I’m also investigating the type of new adaptations that can evolve rapidly upon exposure to harsher new environments, and how quickly old adaptations are lost.
University of Cambridge | PhD in Evolutionary Biology (BBSRC funded) | 2018- |
University of Cambridge | MPhil in Behavioural Ecology/Evolutionary Biology | 2017-18 |
University of East Anglia | Graduate Diploma in Ecology | 2015-16 |
University of Cambridge | BA Classics | 2010-13 |
Selected Media and Outreach
Cam FM | 2018- | Station Manager, radio presenter and host of "Us and STEMM" and "Lockdown Science" podcasts
Museum of Zoology, Cambridge | 2018- | Speaker and outreach volunteer
Festival of Nature | Member of The Crew | 2021 | A "face of the festival" producing video and audio content
Pint of Science | Climate change and conservation after COVID-19 | 2021 | Panellist and roundtable moderator
Cambridge Festival | Battle of the Beasts | 2021 | Host
Wildscreen/Back from the Brink | Winner of the "People and Nature" film category | 2019 |
BBC Wildlife Magazine | Winner of "Blogger of the Month" | 2015 |
Association of Taxation Technicians | ATT 25att25 award | 2014 |
Association of Taxation Technicians | ATT Mid-Anglia Branch Prize | 2014 |
Magdalene College, Cambridge | Goulandris academic award | 2010-13 |