PhD students

Yorick Lambreghts — PhD student, November 2019-

PhD project: Unraveling the co-evolutionary dynamics between kin recognition and social complexity

I completed my MSc in Behavioural and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Antwerp (Belgium) in 2017. I have always been especially interested in animal behaviour, which led me to mainly participate in projects on personality related behavioural traits in birds and lizards. While I liked working with birds, I have come to prefer lizards because they cannot fly away.

For my PhD I will investigate the early evolution of social groups with a particular interest in the role of kin recognition. As a model system I will use reproductively bimodal species (females of the same species are either egg-laying or live-bearing depending on the population) such as Saiphos equalis and Lerista bougainvillii in addition to family-living lizards of the Egernia group. Specifically, I will look at the evolution of kin recognition itself, its importance in the early evolution of sociality and how it becomes refined as social systems become increasingly complex. My PhD will be undertaken in collaboration with Martin and also, Geoff While (University of Tasmania), and Camilla Whittington (University of Sydney). Technically, my PhD is through UTAS!

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Maddi Holmes — PhD student, February 2021-

I completed my Bachelor of Science (Zoology) at Deakin University in 2018, and my Master of Agricultural Sciences (Animal Science) at the University of Melbourne in 2019, studying the impacts of zoo visitors on seahorse behaviour at Melbourne Zoo. I’ve always been fascinated by what animals are getting up to, and decided to shift my focus towards lizards because I like their small hands.

My PhD will build on prior research in birds and primates to explore social cognition and cultural transmission in lizards, using the world’s most popular pet reptile, bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps), as a model!

I am co-supervised by Martin and Ben Ashton.

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Ko-Huan Lee — PhD student, April 2018-

PhD project: Bacterial and parasitic effects on lizard performance. I am supervised by Martin Whiting and Stephan Leu. My project builds on the famous sleepy lizard (Tiliqua rugosa) system and the garden skink (Lampropholis guichenoti). I investigate how multiple bacteria or parasites co-occur, and their effect on host performance, including movement patterns, sprint speed, endurance, foraging efficiency and thermal preference. I am also exploring questions about how these changes can affect parasite transmission at the population level using social network analysis. In addition to science, I love diving and spearfishing! I dive all over the south coast of Sydney and spear from mowies to dollies. Always ready to jump into the sea when I have spare time.

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Victoria Russell — PhD student, 2019-

PhD project: The Evolutionary Origins of Family Living

I am a PhD student registered at the University of Tasmania. I am co-supervised by Geoff While (UTAS) and Martin. I completed my undergraduate degree and BSc Hons year at the University of Tasmania looking at how genetic and environmental factors influence developmental stability in the wall lizard.

I am interested broadly in understanding the factors that mediated the early origins and maintenance of social structures. For my PhD I am working on the Egernia group, in particular focusing on the three types of social structures found within the group: solitary species, facultative social species and obligate social species. My focal topic will ask how key social traits, such as maternal aggression, social learning and kin recognition have been refined in social species relative to closely related solitary species.

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