Current group members:

Greta Bocedi

Principal Investigator

Royal Society University Research Fellow

My interest is easily sparked by anything regarding evolution of species’ adaptations and individuals’ behaviours, especially when ecology and evolution interplay in shaping species’ characteristics. How do spatial processes impact on evolution of life-histories, environmental adaptations and behaviours? How do the genetic bases of traits affect their evolution? What are the consequences for population dynamics, persistence and diversification, and for species’ responses to rapid environmental changes?

I use theoretical models, mainly genetically- and spatially-explicit individual-based models, to understand ecological, evolutionary and eco-evolutionary dynamics of species life histories and behaviours in space and during environmental changes, and their impact on population dynamics and species responses to changes. I also aim at translating this fundamental understanding into theory-grounded applications that can be used for both strategic and tactical modelling of, for example, spatial connectivity, population dynamics and species’ distributions, to aid management interventions.

Maximilian Tschol

PhD student 2018-

Funded by The Royal Society

Co-supervised by Prof Jane M. Reid

Project | Sexual selection in space: consequences for species’ responses to environmental changes.

Sexual selection, through the processes of mate choice and competition for mates, is a powerful force that is responsible for the evolution of spectacular species’ characteristics such as elaborate plumage and songs in birds, deer antlers and fish colouration. Sexual selection can vary in space, within a species’ geographical distribution, and thus can cause morphological and behavioural differentiation among populations of the same species. It can also affect population viability and genetic variation, and thus may impact on species’ ability to survive current rapid environmental changes and to adapt to new conditions. Understanding how sexual selection varies in space, and its effects on species’ responses to environmental changes, is therefore important as it will help understanding how it might impact species’ persistence in rapidly changing environments. In this project, with the aid of computer simulations, Max is developing new theory to understand how sexual selection operates in complex and changing environments.

Lana Dunan

PhD student 2019-

Funded by The Royal Society

Co-supervised by Dr Lesley Lancaster

Project | Joint eco-evolutionary dynamics of dispersal and female multiple mating: empirical tests

Dispersal and mating system are fundamental for species’ survival. They determine how genes are transmitted across generations and in space, and genetic variation ultimately determines a species’ potential to adapt to new conditions. Dispersal and mating system are tightly interconnected. Female multiple mating, in particular, is now being shown to be widespread across organisms and to have far-reaching consequences for species evolution and potentially for species’ responses to environmental changes. As with dispersal, female multiple mating is thought to evolve as a consequence of inbreeding. However, we still do not know how these two behaviours affect each other’s evolution, how environmental changes impact their joint evolution and what this means for species’ persistence. Lana is investigating these questions using a model species for the study of mating system and dispersal, the seed beetle, Callosobruchus maculatus.

Anders Poulsen-Charmouh

PhD Student 2019-

Funded by University of Aberdeen – Dowry Studentship

Co-supervised by Prof Trine Bilde and Prof Jane M. Reid

Project | Evolution of inbreeding mating system in social species: theory on causes and consequences

Inbreeding mating systems, where individuals mate regularly with close relatives and thus are permanently inbred, have evolved multiple times in both animal and plants. Yet, they represent an intriguing evolutionary puzzle. Because of the costs associated with inbreeding (inbreeding depression and loss of genetic diversity), we expect strong selection for mechanisms that allow avoiding inbreeding. However, in situations where the costs of avoiding inbreeding are greater than the cost of inbreeding itself, for example because of extremely high cost of dispersal, tolerance to inbreeding might evolve. Additionally, the transition to permanent inbreeding requires purging of most of the inbreeding load, an even greater challenge for self-incompatible organisms. The mechanisms behind the transition to inbreeding mating systems becomes even more intriguing when it is associated with a transition to sociality, as in social spiders. Thus, evolution of inbreeding mating systems represents a fascinating example of eco-evolutionary interactions between dispersal, mating system and sociality, still waiting for theory explaining their occurrence. Anders is developing new theory to understand (1) evolution of inbreeding mating systems and associated sociality, and (2) its consequences for species adaptation to changing environments and evolutionary potential.

Co-supervised PhD student

Connie Baker-Arney

QUADRAT DTP PhD Student 2020-

at Queen’s University, Belfast

Primary supervisor: Dr Dómhnall Jennings

Project | The effects of maternal stress on offspring survival in the fallow deer

The impact of climate change and human-induced habitat fragmentation has resulted in an unprecedented planet-wide biodiversity crisis. Thus, it is crucial to understand the conditions which influence the survival of vulnerable individuals. Stress is associated with an increased risk of mortality, and there is considerable evidence of a link between maternal stress during pregnancy and early-life mortality in offspring. Accumulating evidence indicates that the developing foetus responds to conditions experienced by the mother, and that exposure to stress may have life-limiting effects. The objective of Connie’s project is to examine the association of maternal stress with juvenile behaviour and mortality in the fallow deer. Connie will collect behavioural and environmental data a wild herd of fallow deer Dama dama resident in Phoenix Park, Dublin, to estimate the extent to which maternal stress during foetal development predicts fawn survival.