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Cambridge Biosciences DTP PhD Programme


Department of Zoology

Research theme: Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food


After an undergraduate degree in Classics at Cambridge, I worked as a tax advisor for two years before retraining as an ecologist at UEA. I started my research MPhil at Cambridge in 2017 and then continued in the same lab for my PhD. Alongside my PhD I have undertaken a range of science outreach and media work, with a particular focus on radio, podcasting and live in-person talks. I freelance at BBC Radio Cambridgeshire as a presenter, producer and reporter, and I am the Station Manager of Cam FM, the university’s student radio station.


Project Title:

The role of social evolution in resilience and adaptation in novel environments.

Project Summary:

Climate change, habitat degradation and excessive use of antibiotics and pesticides pose severe threats to natural populations, and thus an ability to predict how populations respond to environmental perturbations is becoming ever more important. Understanding how a population’s evolutionary history affects its future resilience could therefore play a vital role in mitigation strategies. Existing theory makes two contrasting predictions: (1) populations that have previously been exposed to stronger selection filters consist of hardier individuals and will be therefore more resilient to future extreme events; and (2) populations that have been exposed to more relaxed selection in their evolutionary past will have greater standing genetic variation and thus greater resilience to extreme events. Whether these predictions also apply to populations that have been exposed to differential selection through social interactions is largely unknown.

Using the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides as a study system, I am investigating 1) whether the evolutionary history of parental care in a population affects its resilience, and capacity for adaptation, in novel environments. I’m also investigating 2) the type of new adaptations that can evolve rapidly upon exposure to harsher new environments, and 3) how quickly old adaptations are lost.



Key publications: 

Bladon EK, English S, Pascoal S and Kilner RM (2020), Early‐life effects on body size in each sex interact to determine reproductive success in the burying beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides. J Evol Biol; 33: 1725-1734  

Teaching and Supervisions

Research supervision: 

Professor Rebecca Kilner

Staff Photo

Job Titles

PhD Student