Clegg Lab

About the Group

Benjamin Van Doren (DPhil Student)

benjamin van doren

My work focuses on the evolution and plasticity of migration. Specifically, I am interested in how birds adjust their migratory behavior in response to both short- and long-term environmental changes, and the relative contributions of individual plasticity and "hard-coded" evolutionary changes in these responses. Currently, I am studying Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla) that spend the winter in the British Isles. This migratory phenotype has only arisen in recent decades, and my project seeks to understand the extent to which this novel phenotype has been a result of microevolutionary change. I also use remote sensing and citizen science datasets to answer questions related to change and flexibility in bird migration.





Ashley Sendell-Price (DPhil Student)

ashley sendell price

The frequency with which divergence proceeds with gene flow is a fundamental, yet unresolved question in evolutionary biology. The genome of a diverging taxon does not change uniformly - instead some sections of the genome diverge quickly, while others diverge slowly. Such differences in the speed of divergence result in a heterogeneous genomic landscape that could be used to infer the evolutionary processes involved in the road to speciation such as natural selection and divergence with or without gene flow. For example, highly diverged regions surrounded by undifferentiated genome (often referred to as genomic islands of divergence) have been proposed to be a signature of divergence with gene flow. However, the extent to which the genomic landscape can be used to infer past evolutionary processes is debated and its resolution requires the characterisation of known gene flow scenarios for populations at different stages of divergence. Southwest Pacific island colonising silvereyes are a well-characterised system and I aim to compare genomic patterns of divergence in old and young populations that have experienced different gene flow scenarios in order to better understand how gene flow shapes the terrain of the genomic landscape. 


Will Smith (DPhil Student)

will smith

I am working with wild rock doves in the Clegg lab. I am specifically interested in how hybridisation with feral domestic pigeons is threatening their genetic integrity. This involves using genetics along with morphological and plumage traits to explore variation in the level of domestic introgression between different dove populations. This information is important if we wish to conserve populations of these birds (and even identify whether they still exist in anything close to an unadulterated wild form), but also gives us a valuable model system with which to explore the process of genetic extinction. 







Aavika Dhanda (DPhil Student)


My DPhil is about assessing the extent to which forest bird species of eastern Indian Himalaya are affected by climate and land-use changes synergistically for which I am using a combination of approaches such as field data collection, climate and land change modeling. I am interested in habitat ecology and understanding how birds respond to human-induced alterations such as deforestation, forest diversion, climate change and uncontrolled resource harvesting. My research is based in Dibang valley of Arunchal Pradhesh in Northeast India which falls in a global biodiversity hotspot and is inhabited by several indigenous tribes. I will be also studying the intensity of wild bird hunting and demand in the tribal villages through questionnaires and informal discussions.




Hisham Ali (DPhil Student)

lab headshot

I am interested in developing population genomics based models. My project will use models to test the mechanisms shaping genomic architecture. During divergence, the distribution of genomic difference changes non-uniformly, this distribution of genomic difference is the genomic landscape. The mechanisms of gene flow, selection, drift, recombination, influence genomic architecture. My project will develop the models of Quilodrán,2018, facilitating the ability to identify the precise cause of the observed patterns in the genomic architecture.






Andrea Estandía (DPhil Student)

Dr Claudio Quilodrán

Past Students

2018 Erik Sandvig “Demography and evolution of Heron Island silvereyes”

Selected Publications

Sandvig E, TN Coulson, SM Clegg (2019) The effect of insularity on avian growth rates and implications for insular body size evolution. Proc Roy Soc. B 286:20181967.

Sandvig E, TN Coulson, J Kikkawa, SM Clegg (2017) The influence of climatic variation and density on the survival of an insular passerine Zosterops lateralis. PLoS One 12(4): e0176360.

Clark NJ, SM Clegg (2017) Integrating phylogenetic and ecological distances reveals new insights into parasite host specificity. Molecular Ecology 26: 3074-3086.

Siepielski A, MB Morrissey, M Buoro, SM Carlson, CM Caruso, SM Clegg, T Coulson, J DiBattista, KM Gotanda, CD Francis, J Hereford, JG Kingsolver, KE Augustine, LEB Kruuk, RA Martin,

Sheldon, N Sletvold, EI Svensson, MJ Wade, ADC MacColl (2017) Precipitation drives global variation in natural selection. Science 355: 959-962

Clark NJ, K Wells, D Dimitrov, SM Clegg (2016) Co-infections and environmental conditions drive the distributions of blood parasites in wild birds. Journal of Animal Ecology 85:1461-1470.

Potvin, DA, SM Clegg (2015) The relative roles of cultural drift and acoustic adaptation in shaping syllable repertoires of island bird populations change with time since colonization. Evolution 69: 368-380.

Clegg SM, DF Frentiu, J Kikkawa, G Tavecchia and IPF Owens (2008) 4000 years of phenotypic change in an island bird: heterogeneity of selection over three microevolutionary timescales. Evolution 62: 2393-2410.

Clegg SM, SM Degnan, J Kikkawa, C Moritz, A Estoup and IPF Owens (2002) Genetic consequences of sequential founder events by an island-colonizing bird. PNAS 99: 8127-8123.