Dr James Gilbert

I am a lecJames_Gilbert_for_tedx smallturer in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of Hull, UK.

I am interested in the evolution of parental care and social behaviour – especially how these crucial animal interactions shape, and are shaped by, animals’ nutritional environments. In the most spectacularly social or parental species (or groups of species), these behaviours are obligatory, which gives little insight into their evolution. Instead my work focuses on evolutionary origins – first using comparative analyses across groups of species that differ in whether they are social or parental; second, using field and lab experiments on species that are behaviourally plastic, i.e. where individuals can choose whether or not to be social or parental. Finally, I am interested in how these factors play out in the wild – and the unforeseen pressures exerted upon parental and social interactions by anthropogenic change.

Faculty webpage | Bio (coming soon) | CV (PDF) Google citations | ResearcherID: A-8965-2010 | ResearchGate | Coding projects on GitHub

PhD students

Yannis mugshotYannis Dimopoulos is funded by a studentship from the University of Hull’s new Parental Care Research Cluster. Yannis has just begun a PhD expanding and analysing BugBase – a large database of insect life history traits compiled from literature and from primary observations, which is the first of its kind.  Yannis will look at how life history influences, and is influenced by, the evolutionary decision to perform parental care of different forms and by different sexes; and how parental care is associated with economically important traits such as invasiveness and risk of extinction.

cat-carrickCatherine Carrick‘s PhD (co-supervised with Lesley Morrell) investigates how density and species purity of resource patches (such as wheat plants or seeds) combine to affect the density of insect consumers (e.g. aphids, or seed beetles) and their natural enemies (e.g. parasitoids). She is using a combination of field and lab experiments and broad comparative phylogenetic methods to evaluate how generally these rules apply across insects.

MSc students

charlotteCharlotte Howard is working on the effects of nutrition upon post-ingestive processing in solitary bee larvae.



Caitlin Flynn is looking at evolutionary patterns in offspring provisioning across insects.

Ewen Howard is looking at the evolution of behavioural mimicry in hoverflies.

Toby Bagnall is looking at the effect of temperature upon the nutritional ecology of Osmia larvae, helping to assess their resilience to a warming climate.


AA3Alex Austin‘s PhD project (co-supervised with Lori Lawson Handley at Hull and Darren Evans at Newcastle University) uses semi-field mesocosm experiments to investigate whether and how wild red mason bees (Osmia bicornis) regulate the macronutrient composition of the pollen nutrition that parents provide to their offspring – and, by constructing and analysing interaction networks, how this may affect the species’ resilience to human induced landscape change.