In the spring term, Christopher delivers a workshop for postgraduates and staff on the use of R in research. More and more researchers are using the R programming environment to carry out analysis,… read more
Christopher is currently working in Tom Reader's research group on a NERC-funded project entitled "Realised hypothetical phenotypes and the adaptive value of Batesian mimicry".
Despite being relatively harmless, many hoverflies (Syrphidae) gain protection from predators through their resemblance to stinging bees and wasps (Hymenoptera). Although some are striking in the accuracy of their resemblance, many bear only a superficial similarity to the insects they mimic, and other hoverflies are not mimics at all. This wide range of strategies has all been demonstrated to be to some extent successful by natural selection. What of the other phenotypic combinations that natural selection has not allowed to persist, or that have never had the chance to appear?
In our project we are attempting to explore these possibilities through experiments using both real and hypothetical 3D insect models. Through photogrammetry, we can capture detailed 3D images of hoverfly and wasp specimens, and manipulate their size, shape, colour and/or pattern in silico. We can then use additive manufacture ("3D printing") to produce realistic models that we can present to model predators and observe their response. In this way, we can explore a wide range of traits, including from inferred ancestral phenotypes, and shed light on which trait combinations are successful at duping predators and avoiding attack.
In the spring term, Christopher delivers a workshop for postgraduates and staff on the use of R in research. More and more researchers are using the R programming environment to carry out analysis, but many find it difficult to understand exactly how commands are put together, and are limited to copy-pasting commands that others have written. This workshop aims to teach the basic programming skills that allow researchers to load up data, manipulate variables, design their own analyses, and produce detailed graphical plots.
In the past, Christopher has:
- supervised students on field courses in Portugal and the Peak District
- supervised laboratory practicals in Animal Kingdom, Parasitology and Statistics modules
- delivered problem sessions on Behaviour and Evolution
In addition to his work on Batesian mimicry, Christopher has also previously worked in Jan Bradley's lab on wild immunology. Using wild field voles (Microtus agrestis) as a study system, he investigated the reasons behind individual variation in immune state and infectious disease.