Chestnut-crowned babbler

Chestnut-crowned babbler: An obligate cooperative breeder of dry regions of south-eastern Australia.

The French Pyrenees

The French Pyrenees: A valuable location to study population responses to climate change.

Professor Andy Russell
Professor of Animal Behaviour


I am a behavioural ecologist with a primary interest in the role of mothers (and others) in the generation of adaptive phenotypes, and a member of the Behaviour group in the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter’s Cornwall Campus.   

The effects of carers on offspring phenotypes are expected to be most pervasive when the ecology is spatially and/or temporally variable, but in its current form has predictable outcomes on fitness. I currently use two disparate systems to test these ideas.

(1) The evolution of ‘altruism’. In cooperatively breeding systems, parent(s) are aided in their reproductive attempts by helpers. The number of helpers varies within a habitat and between years, but when mothers have more helpers they can expect to produce more offspring. Using the cooperative chestnut-crowned babbler, I am testing the hypothesis that mothers in need of helpers produce philopatric altruists, while those that do not produce selfish dispersers.

(2) Responses to climate change. One of the many changes the world is currently facing is climatic. Measuring and understanding population consequences of climate change is important for projections of biodiversity. Mothers might be in a unique position to ‘inform’ their unborn offspring of current climate and, through doing so, hasten the emergence of adaptive phenotypes. I am testing this idea using nest-box populations of blue and great tits along a 1500m altitudinal (climatic) gradient of the French Pyrenees.

Please contact me should you wish to join my research in these, or related, topics. For further details, please see Research.


2000: PhD, University of Sheffield, UK
1993: BSc (Hons), Zoology, University of Glasgow, UK


2017-pres: Professor in Animal Behaviour
Associate Professor in Animal Behaviour
2012-2014: Senior Lecturer in Animal Behaviour, University of Exeter, UK
2011-2012: Royal Society Senior University Research Fellow, University of Exeter, UK
2010-2011: Lecturer, Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, USA
2003-2010: Royal Society URF, Department of Animal & Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, UK
2002-2003: PDRA, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, UK
1999-2002: PDRA, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, UK

Contact details

Tel+44 (0) 1326 255936
AddressDaphne du Maurier Building
University of Exeter
Penryn Campus
TR10 9FE

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