Proximate mediators of competitive behaviour in cooperatively breeding mammals

Rhiannon Bolton


Start Year: July, 2015, 1st cohort

Host University: The University of Liverpool

Department: Mammalian Behaviour & Evolution

Supervisors: Prof Paula Stockley (University of Liverpool),Prof Jane Hurst (University of Liverpool); Dr Sue Walker (Chester Zoo), Dr Lisa Bottell (Chester Zoo) 

Rhiannon Bolton

Academic profile


Bachelor Veterinary Medical Science (Hons), University of Nottingham (2007-2010)

Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Bachelor of Veterinary Surgery, University of Nottingham (2010-2012)

The Wellcome Trust funded MRes in Veterinary Science, The impact of environmental endocrine disrupting compounds on ovine fetal adrenal gland development and function, School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham (2014-2015). Supervisor Prof Richard Lea;

NERC ACCE DTP PhD studentship, Mammalian Behaviour and Evolution Group, University of Liverpool, in collaboration with Chester Zoo (2015-2019). Supervisors: Prof Paula Stockley, Prof Jane Hurst and Dr Lisa Holmes

Work experience

Veterinary Clinician, RSPCA Wildlife Hospital and private small animal practice (2012)
Senior Veterinary Inspector, Animal Health, Veterinary Laboratory Agency (2013)

Skills and relevant qualifications

qPCR, immunohistochemisty, behavioural studies, animal handling and husbandry, welfare assessments, hormonal assays

ACCE PhD Research topic

Investigating the relationship between gut microbiota and animal behaviour

Mechanisms underlying behavioural flexibility are fundamental to understanding adaptive behaviour in both natural and captive populations. The project aims to explore proximate mediators of competitive behaviour in cooperatively breeding mammals, including hormonal, developmental and environmental influences. Cooperative breeders are of particular theoretical interest due to social competition among related females, which can cause significant problems in captive breeding programs. The project therefore combines fundamental and applied perspectives in collaboration with CASE partner Chester Zoo. The final goal is to provide practical solutions to reduce aggression and improve success of European captive breeding programs.