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Dr Nick Isaac and Dr Seirian Sumner

Nick's research

I study how biodiversity is distributed in space, how we measure it, and how it is changing over time. My research combines statistical analysis with the development of statistical tools to draw robust inferences from noisy data. I am interested in revealing the mechanisms linking large-scale patterns with fundamental ecological processes (such as birth, death and extinction), and how these patterns and processes are being affected by land-use and climate change.

Seirian's research

I am interested in the evolution of behaviour, and the role of plasticity in behaviour. Social behaviour is especially intriguing, where some individuals give up the chance to reproduce in order to help others reproduce. I study the mechanisms and evolution of social behaviour, from genes to phenotypes, in social insects (bees, wasps and ants). I use a combination of classical field ecology with the latest molecular sequencing methods to better understand the origins of sociality, caste evolution and how genomes are used differently (e.g. via gene expression and protein synthesis) to generate variation in social behaviour and phenotypic plasticity.

Our journey

I (Seirian) was lucky enough to have a permanent position before our first child was born. We shared childcare responsibilities from the outset, although I worked part-time whilst Nick remained a full-time research fellow. After our second child was born, Nick decided to join me in working part-time, to spend more time with the children. This worked well, as I was commuting three hours a day. Soon after I took up my position in Bristol I decided to return to full-time working, and Nick stayed part time. He does 90% of the after school care (including dancing classes, music classes etc) and at least 60% of other domestic duties. The children often accompany us on fieldwork and conferences. We’ve yet to work out how a 3rd child will fit into our lives, but we hope our teamwork ethos will get us through!