People

This page lists the current members of LivLABS, and gives a little information about their research. Click on the names to get more information on each researcher.

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Kevin Arbuckle is an honorary research fellow at the University of Liverpool, and a lecturer at the University of Swansea. He mostly works on antipredator defences, particularly the evolution of toxic weaponry such as venom and poison, but more generally applies phylogenetic comparative methods to investigate a broad range of questions in animal behaviour and evolution. He is interested in the more unloved animal such as reptiles, amphibians, and (non-Drosophila) insects, and maintains a research interest in exotic animal husbandry and welfare.

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Emily Bethell is a senior lecturer in primate behaviour at Liverpool John Moores University. Her work is interdisciplinary with a focus on cognitive ethology and the development of methods to assessing psychological states in non-human primates in the wild as well as captivity.

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Jakob Bro-Jorgensen: My research interests centre on three areas: (i) sexual conflicts and the operation of sexual selection, (ii) the evolution and function of animal communication systems, and (iii) the optimization of conservation efforts. I investigate these topics taking theoretical as well as empirical approaches, primarily using ungulate study systems. My main field site is in Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, where I have been running the Mara Antelope Research Project since 1998. I am a member of the IUCN Antelope Specialist Group (since 1994).

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Dave Daversa is a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Liverpool.  He is broadly interested in behavioural variation and its ecological causes and consequences.  Most of his research examines behaviour in the context of parasite and disease dynamics, but his work spans predator-prey interactions as well.  Dave’s current work is studying amphibians to clarify how behavioural and other trait differences affect the proliferation of pathogens in multi-host communities.

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Nicola Davidson: I am a PhD student working on improving the environmental and welfare effects of rodent control. I use environmental cues to manipulate the behaviour of wild rodents with the main goal of reducing the impact of rodenticides on non-target animals, including other rodents and birds of prey. I am interested in improving animal welfare, particularly for neglected areas such as rodent control, and the ethics of using animals in research.

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Javier delBarco-Trillo is a Senior Lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University. He is interested in several topics in behavioural ecology and evolutionary biology, with an emphasis on urban ecology, sperm competition, mammalian reproductive physiology, and olfactory communication. A general theme of his research is the interface between chemical communication and sexual selection. Particular areas of research he has investigated include: sperm competition in mammals; the avoidance of interspecific mating in closely related species of hamsters; the evolution of the composition of chemical signals in primates; and the evolution of reproductive parameters in response to sexual selection in mice. Currently, he is developing a multidisciplinary and integrative program on urban ecology and urban evolution, combining field and laboratory studies.

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Stefan Fischer is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Liverpool interested in the effects of early or current environments on social behaviour and how animals adaptively respond to changes in their social or ecological environment. Particularly, he worked with a variety of cooperative breeding animals, such as fish, meerkats and mice, to address these questions. Cooperative breeding animals are an ideal study system because they have to develop a high variety of ecological relevant behavioural skills to cope with their complex environmental demands. Currently he is working in the Mammalian Behaviour and Evolution research group together with Paula Stockley and Jane Hurst to investigate the relative importance of competition and relatedness on cooperative and competitive behaviour in female house mice.

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Adam Fisher: I am a PhD student at the University of Liverpool researching the ecological effects of extreme mating behaviours. In particular I am interested in how sexual cannibalism, in which females kill potential mates, can affect population viability. In particular, whether these behaviours make particular species more vulnerable to the negative effects of habitat change? I use a combination of theoretical modelling and laboratory studies on spiders and mantids.

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Jonathon Green: My research interests lie at the interface of the traditional disciplines of ecology, physiology and behaviour. My work focuses on seabirds, as these animals must adapt be adapted to two contrasting environments: the challenges of foraging in a big, deep, cold, dark, distant water body are very different to those that they face while breeding and moulting on land. Furthermore, both of these environments and their associated challenges change naturally on a seasonal and annual basis and are under anthropogenic threats from over-fishing, climate change and renewable energy developments. Current projects range from the tropics to the poles with postdocs and postgrads working with partners in the Caribbean, in the Channel Islands, in South Africa, Scotland and closer to home at our main field site in North Wales. Research and volunteer opportunities are possible at most of these sites. Contact me for more details.

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Olivia Hicks: I’m interested in how intrinsic factors interact with environmental conditions to drive reproductive skew in wild populations. I use energetics as a framework to try and understand mechanisms operating at an individual level in response to drivers of reproductive success. I currently work on seabird populations and deploy accelerometers to investigate changes in energy use and behaviour in response to intrinsic and extrinsic factors.  I hope to understand individual differences within a population and how these drive reproductive skew and population level processes.

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Nicola Koyama: I am interested in how primates manage their social relationships investigating the commodities exchanged by social partners and the factors influencing the maintenance of social relationships in macaques and chimpanzees. Past research has included understanding how Japanese macaques cope with the consequences of aggressive conflict, how individual’s affective state influences post-conflict behaviour and the long-term effects of post-conflict reconciliation. I currently supervise students at several field sites in South Africa, working on the behavioural ecology of urban vervet monkeys and samango monkeys, and stress and social behaviour in savannah elephants.

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Zenobia Lewis:My research falls within the fields of evolutionary biology and behavioural ecology. I use arthropod model systems to investigate questions in sexual selection, sexual conflict and reproductive biology. Recently I have become interested in how commensal bacteria, for example gut bacteria, affects behaviour.

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Claudia Mettke-Hofmann is a Reader in Animal Behaviour at Liverpool John Moores University. Her research field is the ‘Evolution of Cognitive Abilities in Birds’. The main interest is in the interaction between behaviour and ecology, particularly cognitive ecology. Claudia investigates how evolutionary forces such as ecological factors, social organization, and life-style have shaped information gathering, learning, and memory on the species, population and individual (personality traits) level. Her research involves basic as well as applied research (animal welfare, conservation). She uses cost/benefit considerations to predict cognitive differences on the species to the individual level and integrates behavioural and physiological methods.

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Jessica Mitchell: I am interested in how mammals use scent to make behavioural decisions, particularly those relating to reproduction. I am also a keen parasitologist and am particularly interested in whether scent cues can encode information regarding parasitic infection status. For my PhD I currently work with a wild but habituated population of banded mongooses and have been conducting behavioural experiments to determine how their response to odour cues may change based up on the familiarity, sex, reproductive status and infection status of the odour-donor. I am also aiming to conduct chemical analyses of their scent secretions to determine if the observed variation in behavioural responses is underpinned by chemical differences in odour cues. Before coming to Liverpool I completed my undergraduate and Masters Degrees at the University of Sheffield. I then worked as a research assistant on the Kalahari Meerkat project where I supervised hormonal and behavioural research for Duke University, USA.

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Hazel Nichols: My research interests centre on the evolution of animal societies. In particular, I study the causes of conflict within societies, how conflicts are resolved, and the impact this has at an individual and population-wide level. Investigating these issues is key to understanding how cooperative associations are maintained and provides insight into the social and ecological conditions under which societies evolve. My work draws on a variety of biological disciplines, combining behavioural, experimental, biochemical and genetic methods. My current research projects include

  • The importance of inbreeding and inbreeding avoidance in wild banded mongooses (with PhD student David Wells, Dr Joe Hoffman and Prof Mike Cant)
  • The evolution of scent communication in mole-rats (with Prof Nigel Bennett) and in wild banded mongooses (with PhD student Jessica Mitchell and Prof Mike Cant)
  • Understanding the causes and consequences of genetic structure in mammalian societies (with Prof Bill Amos), including applications to conservation (with INGWE leopard conservation organisation in South Africa)
  • The evolution of cooperative traits in mammalian societies (such as post-reproductive lifespan, with Dr Kevin Arbuckle) and cooperative breeding (with Prof Mike Cant)

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Ed Parker: My research primarily focusses on how primates interact with their environment, particularly in fragmented habitats. I am looking at how fragmentation and environmental variables influence home range size and core areas in two wild but habituated groups of samango monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis) in South Africa. I hope to predict from this which habitats on a larger scale may be suitable for samango monkeys. I will also collect some behavioural data at the field site in Lajmua to investigate how samango monkeys alter their behavioural strategies to deal with potential increases in habitat-related ‘stress’ caused by habitat fragmentation. I am also collecting genetic data to provide insights into male dispersal patterns.

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Steve Parratt: My research focuses on the effect of temperature on fertility. I am exploring if high temperatures affect insect reproduction, and if insects can behaviourally mediate the negative impacts of extreme temperatures on their fertility. For this, I am using behavioural assays on multiple species of Drosophila. I will use laboratory findings to determine if changes in the global climate might drive changes in the distributions of these species in the wild.

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Sam Patrick is a behavioural ecologist and studying individual differences in mating strategies.  Her work focused on reproductive tactics and foraging behaviour, considering how and why alternative strategies are maintained in the population.  She works mainly on avian systems, from great tits to albatrosses, and examines the causes and consequence of individual variation.

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Alex Piel directs the Ugalla Primate Project, a long-term study into primate adaption to an open, dry habitat in western Tanzania, focusing on the use of passive acoustic monitoring to investigate vocal communication in chimpanzees and as a tool for conservation monitoring. More recently, he has begun study into red-tailed monkey communication and its role in coordination and movement.  For more on his work and the Ugalla Primate Project, see here ugallaprimateproject.com

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Tom Price is a lecturer at the University of Liverpool. He works mainly on sex in various species of fruit flies, focusing on why females in some species mate only once in their lives while in others a female might mate a dozen times in a day. In particular, he studies how mating decisions interact with parasitic selfish genes that manipulate sperm production. He also researches sexual cannibalism in mantids and spiders.

Adam Reddon

Adam Reddon, Lecturer in Behavioural Ecology at Liverpool John Moores University: I am interested in the behavioural biology of social living. I am especially fascinated with aggression, dominance, and sociality. I seek to better understand social behaviour through the integration of functional, developmental, and mechanistic approaches. I primarily work with fishes in my research, in particular the remarkably social, cooperatively breeding cichlids of Lake Tanganyika.

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Lynne Sneddon: My laboratory is committed to improving our understanding of aquatic animal behaviour, biology and welfare using an integrative approach. My research specifically addresses questions in animal personality, dominance-subordinate relationships, nociception or pain, and the way these are influenced by environmental stress and adaptation. Current funding aims to improve the detection, assessment and alleviation of stress and ill health in fish and to investigate the replacement of adult fish by non-sentient forms to reduce the numbers of animals used. Although fundamentally important, these topics are relevant to welfare problems in laboratory housed fish and the ornamental fish industry.

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Mike Speed: I am interested in (1) the evolution and stability of animal signalling mechanisms, and (2) the ecological and macroevolutionary consequences of variation in signalling and defence phenotypes in animal species. My work encompasses empirical study (signal evolution under e.g. free-living bird species), theoretical analyses and phylogenetically informed analyses. In addition (with Kev Arbuckle) I have interests in developing methods for measuring the influence of convergence on the evolution of phenotypes. 

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Christina Stanley is a Lecturer in Animal Behaviour and Welfare at the University of Chester. She is a behavioural ecologist whose research focuses on animal social network dynamics and the importance of social bonds, with applications to both wildlife conservation and captive animal welfare. Her study species are usually mammals (specifically feral horses, ungulates and bats); however, cockroaches have also previously taken centre stage and she is also involved with primate conservation work in Ghana.

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Will Swaney: I study animal social behaviour and its underlying neurobiology. I am particularly interested in how different environments and experiences affect social behaviour and how shifts in phenotype arise from changes in brain networks and neurochemistry. Social behaviour may change within the lifetime of an animal as a result of specific experiences, or related populations may differ as a result of natural selection due to differences in food availability, predation or parasites etc. However emerging evidence indicates that certain experiences and conditions can result in changes in behaviour that persist across generations through non-genetic mechanisms, and this field of behavioural epigenetics is one of my focus areas.

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Isabelle Szott: My research focuses on the behaviour of wild African elephants, Loxodonta africana, at Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa. The population comes from a poaching background and originally roughly 250 elephants were introduced here in 1994. Today, there are an estimated 1300 elephants on an area of 750km². Under supervision of Dr Nicola Koyama, I am investigating how the elephants‘ behaviour changes in response to changes in their environment. I collect faecal samples for stress hormone analysis and am interested in their spatial behaviour and social networks.

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Harriet Thatcher: I am a PhD student at Liverpool John Moores University. My research focuses on anthropogenic and ecological influences on urban vervet monkeys in South Africa. I am primarily interested in behavioural adaptations however I am also looking at genetic dispersal, parasite load and movement patterns to support my research. I am interested in the behavioural flexibility of these primates that has allowed them to adapt to the contemporary urban landscape. My research will be combined with other datasets to create management plans within KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

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Jack Thomson is a lecturer in marine ecology at the University of Liverpool. His interests are in animal personality and the expression, primarily, of bold and shy behaviours. He also explores the underlying physiological and genetic drivers of divergent personalities and stress coping styles. He has principally worked on personality and stress physiology of fish (rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss) and now focuses mainly on invertebrate organisms such as sea anemones, crabs and gastropods, and how they exhibit behaviour appropriate for intertidal environments.

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Alice Trevail: my PhD aims to investigate the interactions between marine top predators and their environment. Widespread evidence is mounting that individual animals display consistent behavioural differences. I am interested in the role of environmental stability in shaping these behaviours, and hope to investigate how they will in turn influence the response of different populations and species to our changing climate.

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Klara Wanelik: my research interests lie at the interface of disease ecology and animal behaviour. My PhD work focused on seabirds, which offer a large and reliable pool of hosts when breeding on land, making them important foci for parasite circulation. I have since moved on to working on a well established wild rodent system, which is known to harbour a rich community of parasites. In the case of seabirds, I have used mathematical models in conjunction with field observations and serological assays, to show the importance of social structure for understanding infection risk within a colony. I am currently using systems biology approaches to integrate a range of data (immunological, microbiological, demographic and genomic) in order to gain a different perspective on host-parasite interactions. I am particularly interested in quantifying individuality and challenging traditional views of personality; whether in the songs of gibbons, the attendance patterns of guillemots or the immune responses of field voles.

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Ben Walsh: I am a PhD student at the University of Liverpool, examining the impact of extreme temperatures experienced by juvenile insects on fertility later in life, and the implications that these conditions might have for their behaviour. In particular, I am interested in the extent to which organisms can be behaviourally flexible in order to maintain fertility in the face of extreme temperatures, and whether this plasticity depends on the stage in an individual’s life history when extreme temperatures are experienced. Are individuals able to change their behaviour to ‘recover’ fertility as an adult when they have been reared at high temperatures as a juvenile?

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James Waterman: I am a PhD student at Liverpool John Moores University supervised by Dr. Nicola Koyama. I have plans to examine how personal, social, and circumstantial/environmental factors influence individual participation in aggressive between-group encounters in Sulawesi crested macaques. This matches my broader research interests; the regulation and maintenance of social relationships in heterogeneous groups. I am particularly interested in how social animals coerce and influence the behaviour of others. Most of my previous work has been conducted with primates but I also work on humpback whale biology, with an emphasis on understanding how female habitat selection changes when they have dependent offspring.

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David Wells: I research how inbreeding and homozygosity can reduce fitness. I am also interested in why individuals vary in their mating behaviour. These questions are combined in my research on the banded mongoose. There is an unusually high level of inbreeding in banded mongooses but it is not ubiquitous. I am hoping to explain why some individuals mate within their natal group and some do not. Interestingly, inbreeding in this species may be important for group cohesion. Inbreeding might increase the relatedness within a group and lead to increased altruism.

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Serge Wich is a biologist with a keen interest in primates and tropical rainforests. His research is both fundamental and applied and uses a variety of approaches such as obervations, experiments, remote sensing using satellites and remotely piloted aircraft systems (aka drones). He is a professor at Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Amsterdam. More details can be found at: sergewich.com and www.conservationdrones.org

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