Potential Supervisors

The Masters by Research (MbyRes) in Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour involves spending the duration of the course (one year full-time, two years part-time) conducting an independent research project with the support of a dedicated supervisor. This provides excellent preparation for careers in further research (e.g. PhDs), and non-academic and commercial sectors.

Details of the course can be found here and by emailing Harry Marshall. Prospective students should contact a potential project supervisor to discuss a project topic before applying. Potential supervisors are any member of academic staff in the Department of Life Sciences, e.g. staff in the Centre for Research in Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour and in the Centre for Research in Evolutionary, Social and Interdisciplinary Anthropology. Listed below are details of some potential supervisors and outline project titles, but this is not an exhaustive list. Please do get in touch with any member of academic staff whose research interests you to discuss potential project ideas.

Dr Colette Berbesque

Email | Research Pages | Twitter

I am an evolutionary anthropologist with particular research interests in human ecology, and the evolution of cooperation, prestige, and hierarchy. Through analysis of behavioural data from the Hadza as well as from other hunter-gatherer groups, I investigate aspects of human evolution, including: strategies of food procurement and provisioning, cooperation, reputation, and gender. I am also interested in the effects of inequality on stress and wellbeing in local populations.

Masters by Research Projects

  • The relationship between cortisol and social integration in people ‘socially distancing’
  • Changes in measures of wellbeing over time in Hadza hunter-gatherers
  • What predicts egalitarianism in ethnographically described hunter-gatherers?
  • The effect of Intergenerational investment and debt on individual wellbeing

See also MRes in Primate Biology, Behaviour and Conservation

Dr Lia Betti

Email | Research Pages | Research Group Site | Twitter

I work on human evolution and the evolution of modern human diversity. I also study human remains from archaeological excavations, looking at lifestyle, demography and adaptations of human beings in the past. Some of my recent work focuses on the evolution of the human birth canal and related difficulties in childbirth, answering questions such as: are human unique among primates in having a difficult and dangerous childbirth? I am also leading the study of a large late Anglo-Saxon cemetery, with opportunities to study lifestyle, health and disease, warfare and migration in Medieval England or other populations across the globe.

Masters by Research Projects

  • The differential evolution of hands and feet in humans and other primates with specialised forms of locomotion
  • Division of labour and sexual differences in bone robusticity in hunter-gatherers and farmers
  • Effects of historical changes in diet on the morphology of the human face
  • What pelvic bones can tell us about childbirth and inferences on Neanderthals’ obstetric difficulties.
  • See also MRes in Primate Biology, Behaviour and Conservation

Dr Antonia Ford

Email | Research Pages | ResearchGate | Twitter

I am interested in patterns of biodiversity and evolutionary processes generating and maintaining diversity. My current research focuses on the genomics of hybridisation in wild populations of fish species (tilapia) important to aquaculture. My doctoral research investigated diversification of the endemic cichlid fish of Lakes Natron and Magadi in East Africa, using morphology, ecology and genomics.

Masters by Research Projects

  • What is the role of natural selection in shaping patterns of biological diversification in urban stickleback populations? (Co-supervised with Isabel Magalhaes)
  • Ichthyological collections data collection and analysis – at the Natural History Museum
  • Biodiversity surveys in collaboration with the London Wildlife Trust

Prof Lewis Halsey

Email | Research Pages | Twitter

My present research quantifies the energetic costs of animals, their adaptations to minimise these energy costs, and how energy expenditure varies depending upon the characteristics of the ambient environment. I also take a classic comparative approach to my studies, investigating differences between species and how these differences relate to their varying life histories and habitats. Presently, I have opportunities for students to undertake research into the metabolism and behaviour of air-breathing diving animals based at Europe’s largest aquarium in Spain.

Masters by Research Projects

Dr Julia Lehmann

Email | Research Pages

We are deeply social organisms – but why? Why are friends so utterly important for us and to what extent is this special to human and primates? I am particularly interested in the evolution of sociality and the effect of social integration on health and wellbeing. How universal is social buffering, how do species differ in their level of sociality and what is driving the choice of social partners? What are the costs and consequences of social relationships and how do they change during development or after disruption? To address these broad questions I am using a variety of approaches, from social network analysis, to modelling techniques, field observations and thermal imaging across a range of species.

Masters by Research Projects

  • Social integration: causes, consequences and ontogeny
  • Social buffering in despotic versus egalitarian systems (i.e. how does rank or lack of rank affect sociality and its consequences)
  • Animal friendships (within and between species)

Isabel Santos Magalhaes

Email | Research Pages | Research Group Site

My research focuses on trying to understand the evolutionary processes that promote and constrain organismal diversification, especially in the context of changing and dynamic environments. My main study systems are fish (three-spined stickleback and cichlid fish). My research integrates data from multiple sources combining conventional genetics and next-generation sequencing (NGS) techniques with ecological datasets collected directly from the field.

Masters by Research Projects

  • What is the role of natural selection in shaping patterns of morphological diversification in recently adapted fish?
  • Morphological and genetic diversity of fish populations in urban environments. This project requires field work (within London), so will ideally start in the summer months.
  • Resource use diversity in natural populations of three-spine stickleback fish.

Dr Harry Marshall

Email | Research Pages | Research Group Site | Twitter

I am a behavioural and evolutionary ecologist interested in understanding the ecology and evolution of social animals, and using this knowledge to inform their conservation and management. Specifically my interests include exploring how:

  • the costs and benefits of sociality vary between group members
  • individuals difference in behaviour, health and fitness and develop and are maintained
  • these individual differences affect group- and population level patterns
  • this information can inform the conservation and management of social species

Masters by Research Projects

Dr Daniel Perkins

Email | Research Pages | Twitter

My research focuses on understanding the structure and functioning of ecosystems. An ecosystem is more than the sum of its parts and by studying trophic interactions between species (e.g. food webs) and their environment (e.g. temperature) we can gain key information about the pathways of energy flow that bring about real change in natural systems. I use a range of approaches from small-scale laboratory experiments, field surveys and large ecological datasets and my work searches for common mechanisms operating across aquatic and terrestrial realms.

Masters by Research Projects

  • Exploring the effects of environmental warming on predator-prey interactions (co-supervisor Dr Andrea Perna, University of Roehampton)
  • Comparing the structure and dynamics of temperate and tropical food webs (co-supervisor Dr Victor Saito, UFSCar, Brazil)
  • Understanding differences in food web structure across terrestrial, marine and freshwater ecosystems

Dr Andrea Perna

Email | Research Pages | Research Group Site | Twitter

My research focuses on how multiple organisms and individuals interact together to solve problems that would not be accessible to individual animals or individual species. This is a question that I believe is central to ecology, but also to biology in general. More specific examples of research questions involve, how do schooling fish move together in synchrony and continuously negotiate a common direction of motion without a leader? How do social insects build collectively nests with a coherent structure that are thousands of times bigger than the insects themselves? How different organisms interact together to form ecological communities that can remain stable for an indefinite time but then sometimes suddenly collapse and re-organise into a different community with different properties and function

Masters by Research Projects

  • Social organisation and collective nest building in ants.
  • Linking chase-escape behaviour to ecology in unicellular predator-prey systems.
  • Exploring the “rules of interaction” of shoaling fish

Dr Julia Reiss

Email | Research Pages | ResearchGate

I am a freshwater biologist with a particular interest in the taxonomy and ecology of aquatic fauna (e.g. microscopic animals such as ciliates and meiofauna). My past research has always focussed on testing theoretical ecology on assemblages of aquatic invertebrates. I have combined field observations and laboratory experiments in the past to assess assemblage patterns of freshwater invertebrates, but have also used them as model systems for testing general theoretical ecology.

Masters by Research Projects

  • Linking food quantity and environmental temperature to population sizes of microbes

Prof Anne Robertson

Email | Research Pages

I am a community ecologist with a particular interest in aquatic subsurface habitats such as aquifers and hyporheic zones (the area beneath the bed of rivers and streams). I explore how the simple, unique food webs that occur in aquifers respond to disturbances such as flooding and pollution. I am also interested in drivers of hyporheic zone community composition, and how these communities respond to emerging organic compounds (e.g. personal care products and pharmaceuticals). I use both field surveys and laboratory experiments in my work.

Masters by Research Projects

  • Does grazing by groundwater macroinvertebrates alter activity and functioning of groundwater biofilms
  • How do hyporheic zone food webs respond to emerging organic contaminants?
  • What are the impacts of short term temperature change on groundwater organisms?

Prof Stuart Semple

Email | Research Pages | Twitter

My main research interests are in the areas of primate social behaviour and welfare. I have a long-standing interest in primate communication, and in particular in testing the common statistical patterns of human language (known as ‘linguistic laws’) in primate vocal and visual signals. I am also interested in how observing others’ social interactions can affect bystanders, and in how affiliative behaviours spread through social groups. Finally, I am also interested in developing and applying new methods to assess primate emotions and welfare, for example by monitoring behaviour or by remotely measuring physiological parameters such as heart and breathing rate.

Masters by Research Projects