Biological Sciences (Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour) MPhil/PhD

Major code: BIMR/BIPR


We study patterns in the natural environment, from the behaviour of individual organisms to dynamics of populations and the diversity of communities. Our aim is to go beyond description of these patterns - we wish to understand the ecological and evolutionary factors that drive them.

Ultimately, our goal is to understand the principles that underlie biological diversity – be this why individual mice behave differently, or why a disease varies in how common it is over time, or over geographical space. We have four research themes:

Subject Overview

Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease

We seek to understand the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of disease in wildlife populations. Our study systems are diverse, from microbes and their phage, through interactions in insects, wild rodent communities in the UK and abroad, to the microbes in the cystic fibrosis lung.

To better understand the ecological and evolutionary behaviour of these systems, we employ field, genetic, genomic and mathematical approaches.

Evolution: Phenotype to Genome

Evolution has traditionally been studied at the level of the phenotype. With the emergence of new genomic technologies, we have an increasing ability to also examine how evolution is reflected in the genome, and to use techniques of molecular ecology to give insights into evolutionary processes.

Current research is trying to understand the molecular basis of adaptation in the peppered moth, and in host-parasite interactions, and what these details tell us about the process of evolution. We are also employing molecular ecology tools to understand how geography and history have combined to structure current species.

Mammalian Behaviour and Evolution

We investigate mammalian behaviour, commonly working from molecules through to behaviour. We are particularly interested in:

  • chemical communication
  • reproductive strategies (with particular focus on mechanisms and evolutionary consequences of pre and post-copulatory sexual selection)
  • reproductive cooperation and conflict
  • the drivers of social structure and dispersion
  • interactions between behaviour and disease.

We have an applied interest in the epidemiology of infections in domestic animals and in using ideas from evolution and behaviour to improve animal welfare.

Ecology: Phenotype to Ecosystem

We are interested in how individuals, species and communities respond to change, and how to mitigate risk.

We have particular interest in conservation biology, especially with regard to:

  • the metapopulation dynamics of threatened odonates
  • thermal ecology, particularly effects of warming on organism size and ecological rates
  • using protists as model organisms to study population dynamics, ecophysiology, distributional patterns, food web structure and the flow of energy and biomass through aquatic food webs
  • phenotypic plasticity, especially maternal effects and developmental thresholds and their effects on population dynamics.

Key Facts

Research partnerships
Our PhD studentships are supported by national and international collaborations, including joint PhD study programmes (e.g. with RIKEN, Japan and A*Star, Singapore).

Our partnerships with Unilever and other companies are making life better for people worldwide, as well as generating significant revenues to add to our £10m p.a. grant funding, primarily from UK research councils, charities and the European Commission.

Why Institute of Integrative Biology?

From blue sky research to global solutions

The Institute is not simply a hive of discovery. We are using our knowledge to solve pressing global issues in fields such as disease prevention, alternative fuel technologies and food security.

Making a difference

From molecule to man, individual to ecosystem, our research programmes – and scientists – are making a difference. Join us on the journey.