The Farmhouse, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Cornwall, TR10 9FE, UK
I am an ecologist with interests in animal behaviour, evolution and conservation. My current research focusses on individual differences in personality and cognition among individuals within cooperative groups.
I am also involved in science communication. I am a junior editor at the magazine Current Conservation, have written for various other magazines and websites and recently published my first children’s book as part of a series produced in collaboration with other researchers at Exeter University. More information about this project can be found at http://lifesciences.exeter.ac.uk/outreach/cornwall/profpenny/.
Previous Research Projects
- Cooperation in long-tailed tits (Aegithalos caudatus) with Dr Andy Russell.
- Habitat requirements of common and soprano pipistrelle bats (Pipistrellus pipistrellus, Pipistrellus pygmaeus) with Dr Peter Dennis.
2012 MSc, Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology (University of Exeter)
2010 BSc (Hons), Countryside Conservation (University of Aberystwyth)
PhD Thesis: Personality variation and learning styles in the chestnut-crowned babbler (Pomatostomus ruficeps).
i) Cooperation and contribution to offspring care
In cooperative breeding systems, parents are assisted by non-breeding helpers to raise offspring. In many cooperative species, the contribution of these helpers significantly enhances the productivity and/or success of a breeding attempt. However, individuals within the group may adopt different social roles and vary greatly in the level of care they contribute.
ii) Animal personality variation
In a growing number of species, individuals within a population have been shown to differ consistently in their behaviour. Often termed animal personality, these consistent differences may be associated with variation in other characteristics, for example in learning style. Together, these individuals differences present an as yet under-explored explanation for the observed variation in contributions to cooperation.
My research seeks to bring together these emerging fields. Working with a population of chestnut-crowned babblers, a cooperative breeding bird endemic to the arid zone of S.E. Australia, I am investigating personality variation and cognitive differences among individuals, and the consequences of this variation for the evolution and maintenance of cooperation in animal societies.
Funding Body: Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)