I am a EnvEast PhD student working in Gage Laboratory at the Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Conservation, University of East Anglia
Coming from a natural sciences background, where nearly any module in the science faculty could be studied, I have a broad range of interests. However, a passion quickly developed for studying how selection shapes morphology, behaviour and lifespan; some especially interesting scenarios arise when parasites or sexual competition are involved. Although I have a soft spot for mammals groups like monkeys, cats and bats; invertebrates are fascinating because they are so diverse and ubiquitous. Butterflies, moths, bees, wasps and ants are particularly captivating.
My current research focuses on how heatwaves impact male insect reproduction. In warm-blooded animals heat stress reduces male fertility but cold-blooded animals have hardly been looked at despite being more abundant and potentially more vulnerable. My experimental approach is to assess reproductive fitness and sperm form/function using large replicated populations of the Red Flour Beetle, Tribolium castaneum. We are finding many aspects of male reproductive biology are vulnerable including sperm counts, sperm viability and testes size. There are also long-term effects over generatons. However, future plans aim to incorporate Lepidopteran models such as Speckled Wood, Green-veined White or Scotch Argus Butterflies and Indian Meal Moths..
I am also involved in research on explanations for homosexual behaviour in male insects. The results of previous studies have often been inconclusive, anecdotal or indirectly compare mate choice in assays of single sexes. The new work looks at the impact of sexual selection, through evolved regimes of differing sex ratios, on the mate recognition behaviour of males in assays presenting pairs of mating targets.