MyScience   Lyanne Brouwer        




I am a post-doctoral researcher with a broad interest in behavioural and evolutionary ecology and conservation. Much of my research has focused on the questions related to how individuals cooperate and compete in viscous populations (i.e. populations with limited dispersal). Recently, I have also initiated a new study to investigate how urbanization affects social behaviour, funded through a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship. My research combines the use of long-term datasets,  genetic tools and experiments, based on a thorough understanding of animals in their natural habitat.  

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


Check out the new citizen science fairywren project.

Effects of urbanization on social behaviour

Urbanization involves a drastic change of the environment and is considered one of the most important threats to biodiversity. Despite the attention on how urbanization has affected behavioural changes to the environment, the effect on intra-specific social behaviours, like cooperation and competition has been neglected, despite its importance for fitness. This project aims to investigate the underlying mechanisms of changes in social behaviours and the long-term population consequences. Using a citizen science approach, combined with new experiments, this project will shed light on the extent and underlying mechanisms of urbanization on social behaviours and its long-term consequences for the population.

Cooperation & competition in viscous populations

Individuals in viscous populations 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.  In 2008 I 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 (see Brouwer et al. 2017).

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

2016 wren-team

GOOGLE scholar



Cousin Island


Seychelles warbler


Neolamprologus pulcher




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last updated 02/09/18