Behavioural & Population Ecology
Behavioural ecology is the study of the ecological and evolutionary basis for animal behaviour, and the roles of behaviour in enabling an animal to adapt to its environment. Population ecology deals with the dynamics of species populations and how these populations interact with the environment.
Our research in behavioural and population ecology has two major interlinked aims:
- To test fundamental hypotheses in behavioural and population ecology
- To use our knowledge of the behavioural and population ecology of wild species, and the human populations that interact with them, to inform conservation policy and management.
We work on a range of invertebrate and vertebrate species, in terrestrial and aquatic systems, using a combination of desk-, lab- and field-based approaches. Much of our work falls into four key areas:
Incorporates a range of interdisciplinary projects related to human-wildlife conflict with large predators on the one hand and exploitation of wildlife and fisheries on the other. Research on human-wildlife conflict includes studies on large predators and livestock in East Africa and elsewhere (Sarah Durant, Rosie Woodroffe, Chris Carbone). Studies of animal exploitation includes a variety of projects in terrestrial and coastal systems under the Bushmeat Research Programme (led by Marcus Rowcliffe and Guy Cowlishaw), together with studies of deep-sea fisheries (Alex Rogers). Research is also conducted into direct and indirect patterns of human-wildlife conflict and associated extinctions before the modern era (Samuel Turvey). Nine PhD students also currently work in this area: Farid Belbachir, Jennifer Crees, Helen Cross, Caitlin Douglas, Nick Hill, Bjorn Schulte-Herbruggen, Oliver Hymas, James McNamara, Hannah O’Kelly.
Comprises studies of individuals – their behaviour, genetics and health, reproduction and survival – in relation to population viability and dynamics. These linkages are studied in a variety of taxa including baboons (Guy Cowlishaw, Marcus Rowcliffe), cheetah (Sarah Durant, Nathalie Pettorelli), hihi/stitchbirds (John Ewen, Patricia Brekke), amphibians (Trent Garner), large herbivores (Nathalie Pettorelli), geese (Marcus Rowcliffe), and wild dogs (Rosie Woodroffe). Five PhD students also work in this area: Farid Belbachir, Julio Benavides, Alecia Carter, Alienor Chauvenet, Harry Marshall.
Monitoring theory and practice
Includes the theoretical development and practical application of camera trapping (Chris Carbone, Sarah Durant, Marcus Rowcliffe), the use of remote-sensing data to monitor changes in primary production and the effects on wildlife populations (Nathalie Pettorelli), and the application of new radio-tagging technology for studying insects (Seirian Sumner). This area of research also incorporates active monitoring programmes of wildlife populations, including the acoustic monitoring of bat populations (Kate Jones), and links in with the ZSL Indicators and Assessments Unit (Ben Collen). Six PhD students also work in this area: Farid Belbachir, Savrina Carrizo, Ian Craigie, Robin Curtis, Caitlin Douglas, Bjorn Schulte-Herbruggen.
Social biology and sexual selection
Includes studies on foraging, sexual signals, and collective action in baboons (Guy Cowlishaw, Andrew King), hunting and reproductive decisions in cheetah (Sarah Durant, Dada Gotelli, Nathalie Pettorelli), signalling and sexual selection in hihi/stitchbirds (John Ewen, Patricia Brekke), mate choice, its benefits and consequences in amphibians (Trent Garner), the evolution of cooperation and helping behaviour in pied babblers, cleaner wrasse, and Damaraland mole-rats (Nichola Raihani), the evolution of sociality in social insects (Seirian Sumner), and social behaviour and disease spread in wild dogs and badgers (Rosie Woodroffe). Six PhD students also work in this area: Claire Asher, Julio Benavides, Alecia Carter, Harry Marshall, Rob Pickles, Leila Walker.
Much of this research takes place in conjunction with long-term international research programmes based at the Institute of Zoology and involving a variety of staff, students and collaborators. These programmes include the following: