Group-living animals are affected by both the physical and social environment they inhabit, influencing population dynamic processes such as reproductive success, survival and dispersal patterns; all of which ultimately shape the evolution of a species.
During her PhD Connie examined the social structure of white-winged choughs (Corcorax melanorhamphos), a highly social species of Australian bird. Choughs are obligate cooperative breeders, meaning they must breed in groups to produce offspring successfully. She explored the influence of variable climatic conditions on the population genetics of choughs and the fitness consequences of varying levels of relatedness between group members, and used network analysis to investigate the social dynamics within cooperative groups including the patterns of associations among individuals according to life history traits (age, sex), relatedness, cooperative efforts and personality.
About the speaker
Connie Leon is a Chilean biologist that came to Canberra in 2013 to do a Masters of Science at the Fenner School. During this time, she started her work (and love) with white-winged choughs with her supervisor Professor Robert Heinsohn, which continued as a PhD project.