Faculty of Biological Sciences

Dr Hannah Dugdale

BA, U Cambridge; MSc & DPhil, U Oxford
Lecturer in Conservation Biology
School of Biology

Background: I am an evolutionary biologist, interested in understanding why individuals age differently. I gained my undergraduate degree in Zoology from the University of Cambridge, and I then studied for a MSc in Biology and a PhD on the ‘Evolution of Social Behaviour’ at the University of Oxford. After a post-doc at the University of Sheffield, I secured my own funding through a Rubicon fellowship and NWO visiting fellowship at the University of Groningen, and a NERC fellowship at the University of Sheffield. My research group is now based at the University of Leeds where we continue to investigate evolutionary dynamics of behavioural and life-history traits in natural populations.

Contact:  Manton 8.21d, +44(0) 113 34 35598, email address for  

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Research Interests

Evolution in natural populations of birds and mammals

Welcome to Hannah Dugdale’s research group. We are interested in how animals can respond to environmental change and variation. Our research focuses on within- and between-individual differences in behavioural and life-history traits. We are interested in how these differences evolved and why they are maintained. This will improve our understanding of evolutionary dynamics, providing insights into whether animals may cope with rapidly changing environments. We study evolution in a range of avian and mammalian populations that are genetically pedigreed (Fig.1).

Wytham_badgers            Seychelles_warblers            Acorn_woodpeckers
Fig.1 We use long-term data from natural populations of European badgers (left; photo credit A Harrington), Seychelles warblers (middle) and acorn woodpeckers (right).

The current focus of my research group is ageing. One of the most profound challenges we all face is that we deteriorate with age – a process known as senescence. Individuals clearly senesce differently, but our understanding of how and why individuals senesce in such different ways remains limited. Our research takes a comprehensive and integrative approach to investigate why individual variation in senescence evolved and is maintained. We apply state-of-the-art genomic and statistical techniques to our long-term datasets to investigate senescence. This will generate vital knowledge on how individuals can live longer, healthier lives.  


Current Projects

Genomics of senescence: We have been awarded a NERC grant to evaluate the relative impact of environmental, social, transgenerational and genetic effects on senescence. We will be advertising a post-doc and technician post for this research shortly. We are currenlty recruiting for a PhD student to join this exciting research project:

Genetic and environmental components of senescence in the Seychelles warbler. University of Leeds. Competition funded PhD. Supervised by Hannah Dugdale (Leeds) and David Richardson (UEA). Application deadline: March 10th 2017, 17:00 GMT.


Early-life effects on senescence: An individual’s early-life experiences can have long-lasting effects, impacting on their senescence. We use telomeres – protective caps at the ends of chromosomes that are biomarkers of individual state – to determine how early-life conditions affect senescence in European badgers.


For information on our other projects, such as the genomics of inbreeding and antagonistic effects on immune genes, please click here.


Faculty Research and Innovation

Studentship information

Undergraduate project topics:

  • Senescence
  • Pathogen transmission
  • Conservation genetics
  • Social behaviour

Postgraduate studentship areas:

  • Senescence
  • MHC diversity
  • Quantitative genetics
  • Cooperative breeding
  • Personality
  • Women in science

See also:

Modules managed

BLGY2330 - Terrestrial Ecology and Behaviour Field Course
BLGY3241 - Conservation Biology

Modules taught

BLGY1304 - Research Experience and Skills Level 1
BLGY2301 - Research Experience and Skills Level 2
BLGY3135 - Advanced Topics in Behaviour: from sex to death
BLGY3241 - Conservation Biology
BLGY3340 - Biology Research Projects
BLGY3395 - Advanced Research Skills and Experience
BLGY3396 - Research Literature Review
BLGY5191M - Biodiversity and Conservation MSc and MRes Summer Project
BLGY5198M - Biodiversity and Conservation MRes Research Project 1

Group Leader Dr Hannah Dugdale  (Lecturer in Conservation Biology)

Evolution in natural populations of birds and mammals 


Henricus Van Lieshout (Primary supervisor) 75% FTE
Laura Najera Cortazar (Co-supervisor) 15% FTE