MyScience   Lyanne Brouwer        
                 
 

 

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I am a post-doctoral fellow (ARC DECRA) at the Australian National University (Canberra) with a broad interest in behavioural and evolutionary ecology, i.e. mate choice, inbreeding avoidance, extra-pair paternity, dispersal & population regulation. My main interest focuses on the causes and consequences of population viscosity (i.e. populations with limited dispersal). In such populations individuals live in close proximity with kin, allowing for cooperation among relatives. However, there might also be costs, like risk of inbreeding and competition for space and resources.  My research combines the use of long-term datasets,  genetic tools and experiments, based on a thorough understanding of animals in their natural habitat.  

Recently, I have set-up a new field based study system on cooperatively breeding red-winged fairy-wrens (Malurus elegans).  The fairy-wren genus is well known for their extremely high levels of  promiscuity. All 9 Australian fairy-wren species are cooperative breeders with males staying with their parents to help rear the next brood. In my study species females too stay at home. The extreme philopatry of both sexes make M. elegans ideally suitable to study both the costs and benefits of living in close proximity with kin. Furthermore, the fact that the fairy-wren genus is so well studied now allows for a comparative approach in the evolution of cooperative breeding.

If you are interested in participating in the project for a PhD or as part of your MSc, don't hesitate to contact me!

MSc/volunteer PROJECT IN AUSTRALIA

Previous work

My doctorate studies focused on several aspects of cooperative breeding behaviour and density regulation in small island populations of the tropical Seychelles warbler. The Seychelles warbler is endemic to a few islands in the Indian Ocean and went through a severe bottleneck in the 1960's during which the population was restricted to ca. 30 birds on Cousin Island

Translocations to previously uninhabited islands allowed me to test the causality of density dependence. The empirical data from these translocations combined with population dynamical models showed that population growth is constrained in a density-dependent manner by competition for food. Furthermore, by creating multiple simultaneous breeder vacancies we were able to determine the relative importance of parent presence, age and sex differences in dispersal and territory acquisition of this cooperative breeder. The introduction of these highly threatened birds to new islands has strongly improved the speciesí chances of avoiding extinction, making it one of the most successful cases of combining fundamental research with applied conservation biology.

I have also studied cooperatively breeding cichlids in Lake Tanganyika, Zambia, in collaboration with Prof. Michael Taborsky and Dr. Dik Heg. We experimentally investigated the role of helpers and the evolutionary drivers of cooperative breeding.

 

 

 

 

 

Red-winged fairy-wren

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Cousin Island

 

Seychelles warbler

 

Neolamprologus pulcher

   
 
       

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last updated 13/05/17