The role of polymorphism and life history trade-offs in range expansions.

Vincent Keenan


Start Year: 2014, 1st cohort

Host University: The University of Liverpool

Department: Evolution, Ecology & Behaviour

Supervisors: Dr Stephen Cornell(University of Liverpool),

Twitter: @vakeenan 

Vinni Keenan

Academic profile


BSc. Mathematics, University of Strathclyde, UK, 2009-2013.

MSc. Applied Mathematical Sciences with Biological & Ecological Modelling, Heriot-Watt University, UK, 2013-2014.

Skills and relevant qualifications

Mathematical analysis;
Competent in MATLAB;
Developing mathematical models

ACCE PhD Research topic

The role of polymorphism and life history trade-offs in range expansions

Invasions by alien species, and the shifts of species’ ranges in response to climate change, are two of the most important issues in conservation biology and population management. Recent studies (Elliott and Cornell 2012, 2013) have shown that the questions of whether, and how rapidly, a species’ range will change are complex phenomena emerging from dispersal, genetics, and life history: a polymorphic population can invade more rapidly than any of its constituent phenotypes; the nature of life history trade-offs affects whether range expansion is possible.
This project will develop new theory concerning the determinants of species’ range dynamics, and test the theory empirically using lepidopteran species as model organisms. By building and analysing mathematical models for the spatial population dynamics of evolving polymorphic populations, we will produce a range of predictions of the relationship between dispersal polymorphism, life history trade-offs, and the genetics of dispersal. These can be tested in a number of different ways in butterfly species and invasive pest moth species: new fieldwork, analysis of existing field data, and using molecular genetic methods.