Dr Hannah Dugdale

Dr Hannah Dugdale


I am an evolutionary biologist, interested in understanding individual differences in behavioural and life-history traits. I gained my undergraduate degree in Zoology from the University of Cambridge, and I then studied for a MSc in Biology and a PhD on the ‘Evolution of Social Behaviour’ at the University of Oxford.

After a post-doc at the University of Sheffield, I secured my own funding through a Rubicon fellowship and NWO visiting fellowship at the University of Groningen, and a NERC fellowship at the University of Sheffield. My research group is now based at the University of Leeds where we continue to investigate evolutionary dynamics of behavioural and life-history traits in natural populations.


  • Athena Swan Committee Member

Research interests

Welcome to the Dugdale Research Group. We are interested in how animals can respond to environmental change and variation. Our research focuses on within- and between-individual differences in behavioural and life-history traits. We are interested in how these differences evolved and why they are maintained. This will improve our understanding of evolutionary dynamics, providing insights into whether animals may cope with rapidly changing environments. We study evolution in a range of avian and mammalian populations that are genetically pedigreed (Fig.1).

Wytham badger cubSeychelles warbler chickAcorn woodpeckers

Fig.1 We use long-term data from natural populations of European badgers (left; photo credit A Harrington), Seychelles warblers (middle) and acorn woodpeckers (right).

Genomics of senescence: We have been awarded a NERC grant to evaluate the relative impact of environmental, social, transgenerational and genetic effects on senescence. Alex Sparks is the post-doc on this project and we are recruiting a PhD student for this project. The current focus of my research group is ageing. One of the most profound challenges we all face is that we deteriorate with age – a process known as senescence. Individuals clearly senesce differently, but our understanding of how and why individuals senesce in such different ways remains limited. Our research takes a comprehensive and integrative approach to investigate why individual variation in senescence evolved and is maintained. We apply state-of-the-art genomic and statistical techniques to our long-term datasets to investigate senescence. This will generate vital knowledge on how individuals can live longer, healthier lives.  

Early-life effects on senescence: An individual’s early-life experiences can have long-lasting effects, impacting on their senescence. We use telomeres – protective caps at the ends of chromosomes that are biomarkers of individual state – to determine how early-life conditions affect senescence in European badgers.

For information on our other projects, such as the genomics of inbreeding and antagonistic effects on immune genes, please click here.

We are a member of the Ecology and Evolution group at the University of Leeds.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://biologicalsciences.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • BA, U Cambridge; MSc & DPhil, U Oxford

Professional memberships

  • Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour
  • European Society for Evolutionary Biology
  • Genetics Society
  • International Society for Behavioral Ecology

Student education

Undergraduate project topics:

  • Coccidia in badgers
  • Cooperative breeding
  • Senescence
  • Women in science

Postgraduate studentship areas:

  • Cooperative breeding
  • Conservation genetics
  • MHC diversity
  • Personality
  • Quantitative genetics
  • Senescence
  • Women in science

See also:

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>