Dr Ella Cole

Research Interests

My main research interest is exploring the causes of small-scale spatial variation in spring phenology of trees, insects and birds in order to better understand the scale at which natural selection acts on plasticity in birds. I use long term data on great and blue tit breeding behaviour and fitness, together with detailed environmental data to analyse the spatial scales at which variation in bird reproductive timing can best be explained, and to test hypotheses about the influence of scale on fitness and population dynamics. I am also interesting in understanding what factors may constrain birds’ ability to response to changing climates. I currently co-supervise one DPhil student, who is exploring developmental constraints on phenological adaptation in great tits.

I also have an on-going interest in understanding how consistent individual differences in cognitive performance influence behaviour and reproductive success in the wild, and ultimately how cognitive processes are shaped by natural selection. In collaboration with Dr Julie Morand-Ferron (University of Ottawa) and Dr John Quinn (University College Cork) I have been involved with developing automated devices for measuring individual learning ability in the wild. This work was recently featured in a four-part mini-series on research at Wytham Woods.

Additional information: I have supervised a number of undergraduate research projects and welcome project suggestions from current Oxford students.

Selected Publications

Cole, E.F., Long, P., Zelazowski, P., Szulkin, M., Sheldon, B.C. 2015. Predicting bird phenology from space: Satellite-derived vegetation green-up signal uncovers spatial variation in phenological synchrony between birds and their environment. Ecol. Evol. 2015. 10.1002/ece3.1745.

Morand-Ferron, J., Hamblin, S., Cole, E. F., Aplin, L. M., & Quinn, J. L. 2015. Taking the Operant Paradigm into the Field: Associative Learning in Wild Great Tits. PloS one, 10(8), e0133821.

Kidd, L. R., Sheldon, B. C., Simmonds, E. G., & Cole, E. F. 2015. Who escapes detection? Quantifying the causes and consequences of sampling biases in a long‐term field study. Journal of Animal Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.12411

Hinks, A. E.*, Cole, E. F.*, Daniels, K. J., Wilkin, T. A., Nakagawa, S., & Sheldon, B. C. 2015. Scale-Dependent Phenological Synchrony between Songbirds and Their Caterpillar Food Source. · DOI: 10.1086/681572

Morand‐Ferron, J., Cole, E. F., & Quinn, J. L. 2015. Studying the evolutionary ecology of cognition in the wild: a review of practical and conceptual challenges.Biological Reviews. DOI: 10.1111/brv.12174

Quinn, J. L., Cole, E. F., & Morand-Ferron, J. 2014. Studying microevolutionary processes in cognitive traits: a comment on Rowe and Healy.Behavioral Ecology, aru141.

Cole, E. F. & Quinn, J. L. 2014. Shy birds play it safe: personality in captivity predicts risk responsiveness during reproduction in the wild. Biology Letters,10: 20140178.

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

List of site pages