I finished my PhD in March 2016, I worked on the evolution of polyandry in female insects with Dr David Shuker at the University of St Andrews. I am currently a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Minnesota in the Heimpel lab. My main research interests are sex allocation and sexual selection, and how the two interact.
I’m currently working on the fly Philornis downsi and it’s parasitoid wasps. Philornis is invasive in the Galapagos where it’s causing a huge problem for Darwin’s finches, in particular the critically endangered Mangrove finch and the Medium tree finch. I’m hoping to apply my understanding of parasitoid behavioural ecology and life history, and of insect mating systems more generally to understand the dynamics of this invasion. In particular the aim is to find and release a parasitoid that attacks P. downsi without threatening endemic species on the Galapagos.
In the future I hope to continue my work on how adaptive sex allocation and mating systems interact, I would particularly like to focus on the importance of sexual selection and sex allocation for conservation. This might be something of particular relevance to the invasion of Philornis in the Galapagos. Females mate multiply which might have helped them to reduce inbreeding depression whilst simultaneously purging deleterious recessive alleles through post-copulatory sexual selection on males. Additionally we see some hints of potentially interesting sex allocation behaviour in Philornis – females appear to overproduce males at times when the sex ratio becomes female biased. This type of sex allocation behaviour will not only increase the fitness of females that exhibit it, but will also contribute to the population fitness – a bad thing if you’re a bird.