I'm a Research Fellow at the University of Stirling and I spend most of my time trying to ask two simple questions: why do individuals vary, and what factors drive that variation? Natural selection works by favouring traits which allow individuals to leave behind as many offspring as possible, and yet we still see things which seem counter-intuitive. For example, some individuals in a population are vulnerable to infections and others are immune; some individuals age quickly and die sooner and others live long, healthy lives. How has evolution favoured traits like ageing?
I have two main projects. I study a population of wild sheep living in the St Kilda archipelago, off the NW coast of Scotland. I want to know how much they vary in their immune responses to infections, and what the consequences of that variation. I also use data from pre-industrial church records to ask questions about human evolution, and at the moment I'm especially interested how parental age affects the long-term health and fitness of their children.