Dr Lucy Aplin

Dr Lucy Aplin

Lucy Aplin


Name: Dr Lucy Aplin
Position: Post doctoral researcher
Email: lucy.aplin@zoo.ox.ac.uk


I graduated from the Australian National University in 2009 with a Bachelor of Laws (Environmental and International laws), a Bachelor of Science (Evolution and Ecology), and first class Honours in Zoology. My Honours thesis investigated the evolution and ecology of sexual bill dimorphism in Sooty oystercatchers (H. fuliginosus). During my time at A.N.U. I also undertook a project studying nest-hole competition in threatened Regent parrots, and compared skull anatomy of Feather-tailed gliders (Acrobates) to help reclassify their taxonomy (at the Australian Wildlife Collection). However most of my spare time was spent working as a research assistant for the Evolutionary Ecology Group at A.N.U., studying the behavioural ecology of the cooperatively breeding Superb fairy-wren (M. cyaneus) .

In 2013 I completed my PhD research at the Australian National University and the University of Oxford, supervised by Prof. Ben Sheldon, Dr Julie Morand-Ferron and Prof. Andrew Cockburn. I used social network analysis to investigate two important components of the ecology of tits: individual variation in behaviour (personality) and social information use. In particular, I conducted a series of captive and wild experiments to show that individual differences in behaviour lead to emergent social structure in tits. This social structure is in turn important for social learning and the transmission of information.


I am currently employed as a postdoctoral researcher on a 3 year BBSRC research grant investigating the social context of learning and innovation in great tits. Once introduced into a population, behavioural innovations can spread rapidly via social learning, and are a potentially important source of behavioural plasticity and animal culture. However social dynamics associated with the transmission of learnt behaviour are poorly understood. I will be undertaking a combination of captive and wild experiments over the winter flocking period, using the long-term study population of great tits (Parus major) at Wytham Woods. By investigating social learning in this species, I hope to isolate the role of key individuals, individual variation and social structure on the transmission and persistence of information. For further details, see: https://sites.google.com/site/lucymaplin/

Some of this work was recently featured on BBC Winterwatch: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01qfnxt


Aplin, L. M., Farine, D.R., Morand-Ferron, J., Cole, E.F., Cockburn, A. & Sheldon, B.C. (2013) Individual personalities predicts social behaviour in wild networks of great tits, Parus major. Ecology Letters. 16: 1365-1372

Aplin, L.M., Morand-Ferron, J., Sheldon, B.C. (2013) Milk-bottles revisited: Social learning and individual variation in the blue tit (Cyanistes caereleus). Animal behaviour. 85: 1225-1232. – featured in Nature (Research Highlights), 15 August 2013:    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v500/n7462/full/500257f.html

Aplin, L., Farine, D., Morand-Ferron, J., Sheldon, B. (2012) Social networks predict patch discovery in a wild population of songbirds. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 279: 4199-4205.

Aplin, L. & Cockburn, A. (2012) Ecological selection and sexual dimorphism in the Sooty oystercatcher, Haematopus fulginosus. Austral Ecology 37: 248-257.