Kirsty Macleod

Postdoctoral Fellow, PhD

Research areas and keywords

Keywords

  • evolutionary ecology, behavioural ecology

Research

I am an evolutionary biologist with broad interests in how individuals interact with one another and their environment, and how social interactions may contribute to evolution and shape communities over multiple scales in vertebrate systems. My work is both field and laboratory-based, integrating aspects of behavioural and evolutionary ecology with comparative physiology; and employing experimental, comparative, and observational approaches, as well as molecular techniques, to test key hypotheses and to elucidate the mechanistic basis of processes observed in the field. My research has given me experience of a range of taxa including birds, mammals, and reptiles, and of a variety of ecosystems.

My research program focuses on the adaptive significance and evolutionary outcomes of social interactions, in particular the associations between parents and their offspring. My past and current work has three major themes. First, what is the role of the environment in generating variation in parental traits and investment in offspring? Second, what are the evolutionary consequences of such variation? And, third, what are the physiological mechanisms underlying maternal effects and their consequences?

My current and recent work investigates how physiological stress during gestation influences offspring morphology, behaviour, and survival. At Penn State University, my postdoctoral work focused on how the stress of living with invasive fire ants, a novel predator, influences maternal and offspring behaviour, and offspring survival in matched and mismatched environments, in the Eastern fence lizard. Now I am expanding on these questions to further investigate the context-dependence of maternal stress outcomes – for example, are offspring buffered from these effects in a social context? This work will form part of my Marie Curie Action fellowship.