CIE Seminar Series – 2020: Climate change, ageing, genetics, and death: tales from a long-term bird study

SPEAKER: Professor Loeske Kruuk, Division of Ecology and Evolution, Research School of Biology, The Australian National University, Canberra.

DATE & TIME: Friday, 11th December 2020 @ 12:00 noon

LOCATION: Seminar to be streamed via Zoom. Click HERE to connect.


Why do fairy-wrens die? Addressing this (maybe trivial-sounding) question can provide valuable insights into our understanding of life history evolution, quantitative genetics, evolutionary ecology and population dynamics of wild animal populations.

I present here data from a detailed 30 year-study of a cooperatively-breeding Australian bird, the superb fairy-wren, considering causes and consequences of variation in mortality – with an ultimate aim of understanding a drastic decline in population size observed in the study population. I show how ageing, genetics and climate change all contribute to variation in mortality risk, focusing in particular on the adverse effects of warming temperatures.

I hope to illustrate how detailed long-term studies provide a powerful means of quantifying the effects of climate change on individual life histories and the resulting implications for population dynamics. I would also be very grateful for feedback on our attempts to explain some of the puzzling effects we observe(!).


I am an evolutionary ecologist interested in how evolution works in natural environments, especially considering the role of genetics and the environment in shaping life history variation within populations.

I did a PhD in population genetics at the University of Edinburgh, and then a postdoc at the University of Cambridge. I use long-term studies of animal populations (typically vertebrates) to explore quantitative genetics, life history evolution and effects of climate change in wild populations.

I moved to Australia for an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship at the Australian National University, Canberra, in 2012, and started an ARC Laureate Fellowship there in 2020.

For more information click HERE.

As a courtesy, we request that when connecting to the seminar that you mute your microphone unless you are required to speak, this would ensure that the sound from the speaker to the audience is not disrupted by feedback from your microphone.

Thanking you in advance!