The Team


Andy Young 400.jpg

Andy Young
Associate Professor of Evolutionary Biology

I started my career in Cambridge, completing my Honours degree and PhD, and then holding a Fellowship at Magdalene College. I then won a NERC Fellowship to move to Exeter’s CEC in 2007 and set up the sparrow weaver project, and a BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship in 2010. I am a deputy Director of Postgraduate Research, serve on the College Athena Swan committee and support international Research Fellowship programmes for the BBSRC and Royal Society. Away from the office, I am a climber, photographer, mammalwatcher and father of twins.

Pablo Capilla Lasheras

BBSRC PhD to 2019
The Evolution of Cooperation in Variable Environments

I am studying the evolution of cooperation in variable environments, and the social mitigation of inbreeding depression in sparrow weaver societies. I use field experiments, long-term life-history analyses and next-gen sequencing to address these aims.

Antony Brown

BBSRC PhD to 2021
Age-trajectories in performance in a cooperatively breeding bird

I am studying the evolution and mechanisms of age-related changes in performance in sparrow weaver societies. My interests span parental age effects, telomere biology, patterns of cooperation, and dispersal strategies.

Melanie Weedon

NERC PhD to 2022
Senescence and Parental age effects
in wild European badgers

I am studying the mechanisms of ageing in a remarkable long-term field study of European badgers. My interests span parental age effects on offspring performance, cellular senescence, endocrine interactions with immunity and ageing, and immunosenescence.


Jess Briner

PhD to 2021
Climatic effects on core body temperatures
and fitness in an arid-zone bird

I am using core body temperature loggers to investigate the effects of climatic conditions on the body temperatures and fitness of sparrow-weavers, with a view to advancing our understanding of the likely impacts of climate change on arid-zone birds.

Abigail Robinson

MSc to 2019
Helper effects on extra-group mating in wild social bird

I am conducting genetic parentage assignments to investigate whether helpers in cooperatively breeding sparrow-weaver societies impact the dominant male’s chances of losing within-group paternity and gaining extra-group paternity.



We work with a wide range of expert collaborators, allowing us to conduct
integrative evolutionary and mechanistic research across a range of model systems

Xavier Harrison
Molecular Ecology

Sue Healy & Lauren Guillette
Weaver behaviour and Culture

Marc Naguib
Song & movement ecology

European Badgers

Dez Delahay & Robbie McDonald
Badger and disease ecology

Sue Walker Endocrinology

Dave Hodgson Demography

Chris Beirne Telomere biology


Alastair Wilson
Evolutionary Genetics

Dave Hodgson Demography

Guojie Zhang Genomics

Andrea Fuller & Jess Briner
Thermal biology

Bacterial Ageing

Stefano Pagliara, Ula Lapinksa,
& Angus Buckling

Social insects, banded mongooses, race-horses & guppies

Jeremy Field, Mike Cant, Alastair Wilson, Tom Houslay & Patrick Sharma

Jon Blount Oxidative stress

Nigel Bennett & Simone Meddle Endocrinology

Joao Passos & Duncan Baird
Molecular biology of ageing

Mole-rat Societies

Nigel Bennett & Jenny Jarvis

Comparative studies

Tom Currie

Past group members


Emma Wood (PhD)
Senescence in sparrow weaver societies: magnitudes & mechanisms

Charlotte Martin-Taylor (MbyRes)
Out-group conflict and its implications for cooperation in the wild

Faye Thompson (PhD & post-doc, with Mike Cant)
Dispersal and inter-group conflict in banded mongooses

Lindsay Walker (PhD)
The evolution and regulation of cooperation in a wild bird

Chris Beirne (PhD & post-doc)
Senescence and disease susceptibility in European badger societies

Xavier Harrison (Post-doc)
Reproductive skew and extra-group paternity in sparrow weaver societies

Dominic Cram (PhD)
Oxidative stress & the evolution of cooperation
in sparrow weaver societies

Rafael Mares (PhD)
The evolution and development of prospecting
behaviour in meerkat societies

Jenny York (PhD & post-doc)
The function and regulation of dawn song
in sparrow weaver societies

Jenni Sanderson (PhD & post-doc, with Mike Cant)
The regulation of care, mating & aggression
in banded mongoose societies