Dr Elizabeth Duncan


After completing my PhD in 2007 at Otago University (New Zealand) I did a post-doctoral fellowship examining the evolution of an early developmental pathway found in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster and became enamoured with invertebrate biology, in particular reproduction and development. As a research fellow I continued working in these areas and was also successful in obtaining my own funding to work in the area of phenotypic plasticity. All animals respond to their environment, but some have the ability to change their physiology, biochemistry, behaviour and reproduction in response to an environmental cue; a phenomenon known as phenotypic plasticity.

Using insect models including the honeybee and the pea aphid I have been working to understand how the environment interacts with the genome of animals these animals to give rise to phenotypic plasticity. In October 2015 I moved to the University of Leeds as a Lecturer to establish my own laboratory focussed on phenotypic plasticity and the evolution of eusociality.

Research interests

My research is focussed in four broad areas:

a) understanding the evolution of eusociality

b) understanding the mechanistic basis of phenotypic plasticity in invertebrates

c) understanding how developmental pathway evolve

d) genome architecture and evolution.

<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>


  • PhD

Professional memberships

  • NW European IUSSI
  • European Evolution and Development Society

Student education

My broad research interests allow me to contribute to a number of teaching areas at all three levels of undergrduate study..

Studentship information

Undergraduate project topics:

I offer a range of topics for undergraduate projects including; understanding environmental responsiveness in the honeybee and pea aphid.

Postgraduate studentship areas:

  • Environmental and molecular control of reproduction in solitary bees
  • Maternal control of early development in insects
  • Evolution of eusociality
  • How is reproduction repressed in eusocial insects?

See also:


Research groups and institutes

  • Ecology and Evolution
  • Heredity, Development and Disease

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>
    <li><a href="//phd.leeds.ac.uk/project/1674-how-do-environmental-cues-affect-reproduction?">How do environmental cues affect reproduction?</a></li>