Academic Year 2022-2023
Institution Queen's University, Belfast


School: School of Biological Sciences

Project : Ecological drivers and conservation implications of parental care diversity in vertebrates

Supervisors: Dr Isabella Capellini, Dr Greta Bocedi, Dr Domhnall Jennings, & Dr Lesley Lancaster

Undergraduate Education: BSc (hons) Evolutionary Biology, University of Exeter

Postgraduate Education: MSci Evolutionary Biology, University of Exeter

Research: There is astonishing variation in whether, how, and how long for, animals care for their offspring. In vertebrates, this varies from the abandonment of fertilized eggs in many marine fishes, to whole family groups provisioning and defending offspring in many mammals and birds. Parental care influences life-history evolution and is connected to mating systems, sexual selection, and the evolution of sociality, affecting the fitness of both parents and offspring. Despite great variation in care types and their importance in species evolution, little is understood about the drivers of this diversity. My project aims to reveal the ecological and environmental drivers of parental care diversity in vertebrates and its consequences for species risk of extinction.

Using large datasets with parental care behaviour data for hundreds of species, I will be using phylogenetic comparative approaches to determine how and why parental care behaviours have evolved in the different vertebrate groups.  Questions I am interested in and will be investigating during this project include:

  • Which ecological and environmental conditions promote the evolution of care diversity?
  • How do life-history and reproductive traits co-evolve with different care forms?
  • How does care diversity influence population trends and extinction risk?

I will assemble large datasets for the different vertebrate groups and will be using cutting-edge phylogenetic Bayesian modelling techniques and theoretical modelling to draw conclusions on these questions.



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