I am a Research Associate working on evolutionary and behavioural ecology with a particular interest for eco-evolutionary dynamics and animal populations.
Adaptation: micro-evolutionary and plastic responses to rapid environmental changes
Understanding the rate at which adaptation occurs is crucial for predicting the viability of natural populations. If the rate of adaptation is too slow to track environmental changes, populations might suffer dramatic consequences. Adaptation to a changing or novel environment may occur via micro-evolution where genotypes that have a higher fitness increase in frequency in the population, and/or via phenotypic plasticity where a genotype expresses a different phenotype under different environmental conditions. While plasticity is often studied as an adaptive response to climate (and global) change, micro-evolution is rarely tested, especially in wild populations. My current primary research focuses on studying how rapidly changing environmental conditions influence adaptive responses in animal populations.
Evolution has traditionally been considered a slow process. In recent years, however, examples of rapid evolution have begun accumulating, suggesting that evolutionary dynamics (genotype frequency changes) can occur at comparable time scales to ecological dynamics (population size changes), and that both processes can affect each other in so-called “eco-evolutionary dynamics”. A challenge in studying eco-evolutionary dynamics is identifying the conditions under which evolutionary responses will versus will not impact population dynamics (and vice versa). The gap in our understanding of when selection will or will not drive patterns of eco-evolutionary dynamics hinders our ability to predict whether and how populations will adapt to the rapid environmental change currently faced by many organisms. My research focuses on understanding the links between natural selection, micro-evolution and population demography, and their interaction with environmental conditions. I have mostly addressed these questions using observational data from natural bird populations. However, I aim at expanding my research work to other model systems and studying eco-evolutionary dynamics by means of experimental evolution work and doing so while coupling lab and field studies.
Causes and consequences of variation among individuals
A major focus of my research is to understand the causes and consequences of among-individual variation in labile traits such as behaviour, life-history and physiology. I address this question using both an empirical and meta-analytical approach.
From an empirical perspective, I carry out observational and experimental studies in the lab and in the wild, to investigate the causes of among-individual differences in behaviour, but also in other labile traits such as immunology, telomeres, and hormonal profiles.
From an evidence synthesis perspective, I have worked on a large range of projects. For instance, I collaborated on a review paper of the adaptive mechanisms that maintain individual differences in behaviour (i.e., “animal personality”), and investigated the fitness consequences of these individual differences in behaviour using meta-analytical tools. More recently, I worked on an opinion piece where we discussed the role that among-individual variation in behaviour plays in classic life-history theory and, in particular, in resource allocation-acquisition trade-offs.
If you’re interested in these or related questions and would like to discuss opportunities to join the lab, please get in touch!