Faculty of Biological Sciences

Dr Hannah Dugdale

BA, U Cambridge; MSc & DPhil, U Oxford
Associate Professor 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  

You can read more about Dr Dugdale's interests here:

or follow her on twitter:

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 have recruited a post-doc and a PhD student for this project.


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.


We are recruiting: Post-doctoral Research Fellow in the Evolution of Senescence. University of Leeds. Closing Date: Wednesday 4 October 2017.


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 taught

BLGY1304 - Research Experience and Skills Level 1
BLGY2301 - Research Experience and Skills Level 2
BLGY3135 - Advanced Topics in Behaviour: from sex to death
BLGY3345 - Biology Integrated 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  (Associate Professor 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

Spurgin LG, Bebbington K, Fairfield EA, Hammers M, Komdeur J, Burke T, Dugdale HL, Richardson DS Spatio-temporal variation in lifelong telomere dynamics in a long-term ecological study Journal of Animal Ecology 87 187-198, 2018
View abstract

Bebbington K, Kingma SA, Fairfield EA, Dugdale HL, Komdeur J, Spurgin LG, Richardson DS Kinship and familiarity mitigate costs of social conflict between Seychelles warbler neighbors Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 114 E9036-E9045, 2017
View abstract

Pârâu LG, Kingma SA, Weigl SE, Dugdale HL, Lessells CM, Schroeder J Dynamics in numbers of group-roosting individuals in relation to pair-sleeping occurrence and onset of egg-laying in European Bee-eaters Merops apiaster Journal of Ornithology 158 1119-1122, 2017
View abstract

Edwards HA, Burke T, Dugdale HL Repeatable and heritable behavioural variation in a wild cooperative breeder Behavioral Ecology 28 668-676, 2017
View abstract

Sin YW, Newman C, Dugdale HL, Buesching C, Mannarelli ME, Annavi G, Burke T, MacDonald DW No compensatory relationship between the innate and adaptive immune system in wild-living European badgers PLoS ONE 11 -, 2016
View abstract

Bi G, dos Remedios N, Dawson DA, Kingma SA, Schroeder J, Dugdale HL A multiplex set for microsatellite typing and sexing of the European bee-eater (Merops apiaster) European Journal of Wildlife Research 62 501-509, 2016
View abstract

Bebbington K, Spurgin LG, Fairfield EA, Dugdale HL, Komdeur J, Burke T, Richardson DS Telomere length reveals cumulative individual and transgenerational inbreeding effects in a passerine bird Molecular ecology 25 2949-2960, 2016
View abstract

Edwards HA, Dugdale HL, Richardson DS, Komdeur J, Burke T Exploration is dependent on reproductive state, not social state, in a cooperatively breeding bird BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY 27 1889-1896, 2016

Hammers M, Kingma SA, Bebbington K, van de Crommenacker J, Spurgin LG, Richardson DS, Burke T, Dugdale HL, Komdeur J Senescence in the wild: Insights from a long-term study on Seychelles warblers EXPERIMENTAL GERONTOLOGY 71 69-79, 2015

Atema E, Mulder E, Dugdale HL, Briga M, van Noordwijk AJ, Verhulst S Heritability of telomere length in the Zebra Finch JOURNAL OF ORNITHOLOGY 156 1113-1123, 2015

Edwards HA, Hajduk GK, Durieux G, Burke T, Dugdale HL No Association between Personality and Candidate Gene Polymorphisms in a Wild Bird Population PLoS ONE 10 e0138439-e0138439, 2015

Sin YW, Annavi G, Newman C, Buesching C, Burke T, Macdonald DW, Dugdale HL MHC class II-assortative mate choice in European badgers (Meles meles) MOLECULAR ECOLOGY 24 3138-3150, 2015

Annavi G, Newman C, Buesching CD, Macdonald DW, Burke T, Dugdale HL Heterozygosity-fitness correlations in a wild mammal population: accounting for parental and environmental effects ECOLOGY AND EVOLUTION 4 2594-2609, 2014

Annavi G, Newman C, Dugdale HL, Buesching CD, Sin YW, Burke T, Macdonald DW Neighbouring-group composition and within-group relatedness drive extra-group paternity rate in the European badger (Meles meles) Journal of Evolutionary Biology 27 2191-2203, 2014
View abstract

Sin YW, Annavi G, Dugdale HL, Newman C, Burke T, MacDonald DW Pathogen burden, co-infection and major histocompatibility complex variability in the European badger (Meles meles) Molecular Ecology 23 5072-5088, 2014
View abstract

Schroeder J, Dugdale HL, Radersma R, Hinsch M, Buehler DM, Saul J, Porter L, Liker A, De Cauwer I, Johnson PJ, Santure AW, Griffin AS, Bolund E, Ross L, Webb TJ, Feulner PGD, Winney I, Szulkin M, Komdeur J, Versteegh MA, Hemelrijk CK, Svensson EI, Edwards H, Karlsson M, West SA, Barrett ELB, Richardson DS, van den Brink V, Wimpenny JH, Ellwood SA, Rees M, Matson KD, Charmantier A, dos Remedios N, Schneider NA, Teplitsky C, Laurance WF, Butlin RK, Horrocks NPC Fewer invited talks by women in evolutionary biology symposia JOURNAL OF EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY 26 2063-2069, 2013

Schroeder J, Cleasby I, Dugdale HL, Nakagawa S, Burke T Social and genetic benefits of parental investment suggest sex differences in selection pressures JOURNAL OF AVIAN BIOLOGY 44 133-140, 2013

Edwards HA, Winney IS, Schroeder J, Dugdale HL Do rapid assays predict repeatability in labile (behavioural) traits? A reply to Biro ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR 85 E1-E3, 2013

Sin YW, Dugdale HL, Newman C, Macdonald DW, Burke T Evolution of MHC class I genes in the European badger (Meles meles) ECOLOGY AND EVOLUTION 2 1644-1662, 2012

Patrick SC, Chapman JR, Dugdale HL, Quinn JL, Sheldon BC Promiscuity, paternity and personality in the great tit PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES 279 1724-1730, 2012

Sin YW, Dugdale HL, Newman C, Macdonald DW, Burke T MHC class II genes in the European badger (Meles meles): characterization, patterns of variation, and transcription analysis IMMUNOGENETICS 64 313-327, 2012

Sin YW, Dugdale HL, Newman C, Macdonald DW, Burke T MHC class II genes in the European badger (Meles meles): characterization, patterns of variation, and transcription analysis Immunogenetics 64 313-327, 2012

Dugdale HL, Hinsch M, Schroeder J Biased sampling: no 'Homer Simpson Effect' among high achievers TRENDS IN ECOLOGY&EVOLUTION 26 622-623, 2011

Dugdale HL, Griffiths A, Macdonald DW Polygynandrous and repeated mounting behaviour in European badgers, Meles meles ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR 82 1287-1297, 2011

Dugdale HL, Pope LC, Newman C, Macdonald DW, Burke T Age-specific breeding success in a wild mammalian population: selection, constraint, restraint and senescence MOLECULAR ECOLOGY 20 3261-3274, 2011

Annavi G, Dawson DA, Horsburgh GJ, Greig C, Dugdale HL, Newman C, Macdonald DW, Burke T Characterisation of twenty-one European badger (Meles meles) microsatellite loci facilitates the discrimination of second-order relatives CONSERVATION GENETICS RESOURCES 3 515-518, 2011

Nouvellet P, Buesching CD, Dugdale HL, Newman C, Macdonald DW Mouthing off about developmental stress: Individuality of palate marking in the European badger and its relationship with juvenile parasitoses JOURNAL OF ZOOLOGY 283 52-62, 2011

Annavi G, Dawson DA, Horsburgh GJ, Greig C, Dugdale HL, Newman C, Macdonald DW, Burke T Characterisation of twenty-one European badger (Meles meles) microsatellite loci facilitates the discrimination of second-order relatives Conservation Genetics Resources 3 515-518, 2011

Dugdale HL, Davison D, Baker SE, Ellwood SA, Newman C, Buesching CD, Macdonald DW Female teat size is a reliable indicator of annual breeding success in European badgers: Genetic validation MAMMALIAN BIOLOGY 76 716-+, 2011

Dugdale HL, Ellwood SA, Macdonald DW Alloparental behaviour and long-term costs of mothers tolerating other members of the group in a plurally breeding mammal ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR 80 721-735, 2010

Dugdale HL, Nouvellet P, Pope LC, Burke T, MacDonald DW Fitness measures in selection analyses: sensitivity to the overall number of offspring produced in a lifetime JOURNAL OF EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY 23 282-292, 2010

Hewitt SE, Macdonald DW, Dugdale HL Context-dependent linear dominance hierarchies in social groups of European badgers, Meles meles ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR 77 161-169, 2009

Dugdale HL, Macdonald DW, Pope LC, Johnson PJ, Burke T Reproductive skew and relatedness in social groups of European badgers, Meles meles MOLECULAR ECOLOGY 17 1815-1827, 2008

Dugdale HL, Macdonald DW, Pope LC, Burke T Polygynandry, extra-group paternity and multiple-paternity litters in European badger (Meles meles) social groups MOLECULAR ECOLOGY 16 5294-5306, 2007

Yamaguchi N, Dugdale HL, Macdonald DW Female receptivity embryonic diapause, and superfetation in the European badger (Meles Meles): Implications for the reproductive tactics of males and females QUARTERLY REVIEW OF BIOLOGY 81 33-48, 2006

Agombar JS, Dugdale HL, Hawkswell NJ Species list and relative abundance of marine molluscs collected on Aride Island beach between March 2001 and February 2002 Phelsuma 11 29-38, 2003
View abstract

Dugdale HL, Macdonald DW, Newman C Offspring sex ratio variation in the European badger, Meles meles ECOLOGY 84 40-45, 2003

Bebbington K, Fairfield EA, Spurgin LG, Kingma SA, Dugdale HL, Komdeur J, Richardson DS Joint care can outweigh costs of non-kin competition in communal breeders Behavioral Ecology -,

Johnson TF, Brown TJ, Richardson DS, Dugdale HL The importance of post-translocation monitoring of habitat-use and population growth: insights from a Seychelles warbler translocation Journal of Ornithology -,

Dugdale HL, Richardson DS Heritability of telomere variation: it’s all about the environment! Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences -,
View abstract