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The Marples Lab

Professor Nicola Marples

Member of the Evolutionary Biology and Ecology/Biological Sciences and the Trinity Centre for Biodiversity Research,
Tel: +353 (0) 1 896 1063
Fax: +353 (0) 1 6778094
Skype: nicola.marples 
Address: Zoology Building, School of Natural Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland

Research Interests

We are interested in how the behaviour of animals governs their interactions with each other and their environment. We are particularly interested in how their behaviour shapes their ecology and is driven by evolutionary processes. Our research covers all the major animal groups, but there is considerable focus on birds and mammals in the context of understanding their biodiversity and informing how to conserve them.

My research aims to understand the interaction between behaviour and evolution, both in pure and applied contexts. For example, I am interested in predator-prey systems between birds and insects and how they co-evolve. Adaptations of the colour patterns in the insects alter the decisions by the birds, and different predation strategies played by individual birds alter the selection pressures on the insects. This arms race between predators and prey offers me a perfect setting to investigate the co-evolutionary processes taking place as we watch.

On a larger scale, I am interested in the evolution taking place on islands. Once again using bird species as our models, we are building a detailed understanding of the morphological and behavioural changes, including changes in song, which are occurring among the birds found across an archipelago of islands in Indonesia. This will allow us to understand the evolutionary pressures on these birds and so gain a better understanding of the evolutionary processes leading to speciation.

I also have a research group investigating the behaviour of badgers, their ranging behaviour, diet, reproductive strategies and parasites in Ireland. Building a comprehensive picture of badger ecology in Ireland is important both for effective conservation of this secretive member of our fauna, and because they have been shown to act as a wildlife reservoir for tuberculosis in cattle. Our results are used to assist the Department of Agriculture (DAFM) in effective delivery of a TB vaccine to the badgers.

I have long been interested in using an understanding of animal behaviour to inform captive animal management, improving the welfare of animals in zoos and the success of release programmes and conservation.