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 Matthew Silk

Matthew Silk

PhD researcher

 01326 371852

 Daphne du Maurier 3050


Daphne du Maurier Building, University of Exeter,  Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE, UK

My broad areas of interest are in evolutionary and behavioural ecology. My undergraduate projects involved looked at foraging ecology in shorebirds using conventional observational methods and dispersal in long-tailed tits using population genetics. I was also briefly involved in a research project at the University of Sussex looking at foraging behaviour and landscape use in honey bees. Currently my research is using social network analysis to look at the causes and consequences of non-random social structure in a fission-fusion social system, using a long-term study population of individually marked light-bellied brent geese (Branta bernicla hrota).

Broad research specialisms:

  • Behavioural Ecology
  • Social Network Analysis


BA Natural Sciences (Zoology), University of Cambridge


Research projects

Project Title: Facebook for geese: the causes and consequences of non-random associations in a social forager

Supervisors: Professor Stuart Bearhop, Professor Tom Tregenza, Dr Darren Croft, Dr Pete Robertson (FERA)

Funding Body: FERA

Project Description:

In this project we aim to investigate social structure of a long-term study population of light-bellied brent geese (Branta bernicla hrota) in their winter and spring staging areas using social network analysis. The role of geography and relatedness in governing social interactions will be determined, as well as their stability over time and the extent to which individuals form stable long-term associations. We will then go on to explore the behavioural and fitness consequences of variation in social strategies using individuals selected based on their location in the observed social network.


Couvillon M.J., Barton S.N., Cohen J.A., Fabricius O.K., Kärcher M.H., Cooper L.S., Silk M.J., Helanterä H., and Ratnieks F.L.W. (2010). Alarm pheromones do not mediate rapid shifts in honey bee guard acceptance threshold. Journal of Chemical Ecology, 36, 1306-1308.

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