Research Fellows Directory
Dr Jane Reid
University of Aberdeen
As a population and evolutionary ecologist, I aim to understand how and why members of wild populations vary in their genes and life strategy, and understand the consequences of this variation for how populations change in size and genetic structure. This research is integral to predicting how populations will respond to environmental change and to designing effective population management policies, and is increasingly relevant in today’s changing world.
To achieve these aims, I undertake detailed long-term studies of wild bird populations. I focus on four populations (of song sparrows, choughs, starlings and shags) in which I measure variation in individual survival, reproduction and movements. I use these long-term field data, and computer simulations, to quantify variation in life strategy in relation to genes and environment.
This year I used molecular genetic tools to identify the genetic fathers of all individuals within my song sparrow study population. I found that 30% of individuals were sired by a male other than their mother’s social mate. I calculated that a female’s tendency for infidelity, and a male’s success at siring extra offspring, have substantial genetic bases; different individuals are genetically more or less likely to mate outside their social pairing. These analyses provide fascinating insights into the evolution of mating strategies and their consequences for population structure.
My research on the demographic and environmental causes of population change in Scottish choughs has influenced conservation policy for this protected species (through the Scottish Rural Development Programme), influencing agricultural subsidies and land management. Finally, I developed a large dataset describing the summer and winter movements of European shags, which will allow me to link variation in life strategy across different seasons, thereby providing integrated understanding of the consequences of environmental variation for wild populations.