Friday, September 01, 2006

Dr Tom Reader,

University of Nottingham

I am an ecologist and I am particularly interested in the population biology and behaviour of animals. The two questions that keep me awake at night are "why are there so many species?" and "why do animals behave in the way that they do?" I try to find answers by studying creatures (often, but not always, insects) in their natural habitats, and using mathematical models and computer simulations. I have a particular interest in the ecologically crucial processes of competition and predation, and a general enthusiasm for natural history.

The picture below shows caterpillars of the attractively named "black slug cup moth" in Sydney, Australia. I've spent many happy hours studying the social behaviour that they exhibit. Group size appears to be the result of a balance between the pressures of competition for food and a desire to be protected from attacks by predators".