Sheldon Lab

About the Group

The Sheldon Group pursues a diverse range of research questions but ultimately all focus on evolutionary and ecological processes operating in wild populations. We make particular use of the Wytham Woods study of great and blue tits. Breeding records date back to 1947 and, in combination with many genomics resources for the great tit, this long-term, individual-level population study enables insight into eco-evolutionary dynamics at a range of hierarchical levels, from the population, through neighbourhood- or social group-level analyses, to the levels of the individual bird, genome or genetic locus.

In recent years, we’ve been at the forefront of efforts to study social networks in the wild, based on remote sensing of transponder-tagged birds at feeders, through which we have both generated empirical research and developed novel analytical techniques to make sense of the wealth of data generated. A particular focus has been on the way that social network structure influences the flow of information through populations, and how this can lead to large-scale population differences.

A second are of current interest relates to understanding how individuals interact with environmental variation at different scales, and the consequences this has for adaptation to changing environments. In particular, I am fascinated by the way that variation at different spatial and temporal scales influences the way that coevolution occurs between different trophic levels, and we have ongoing efforts to understand these interspecific and physical environmental interactions in Wytham Woods, for which many environmental parameters are described at a fine scale.

I welcome enquiries from prospective postgraduate students or postdocs interesting in applying for funding to extend research on these and related topics.

For further information visit: 


PI: Professor Ben Sheldon

Emeritus Professor: Professor Chris Perrins 

Research Fellows and Post Docs: Dr Ella Cole, Dr Josh Firth, Dr Charlotte Regan, Dr Peter Santema

DPhil Students and Visiting StudentsWenyuan Zhang, Nilo Merino Recalde, Samin Gockekus, Anett Kiss, Carys Jones, Joe Woodman, Will Smith

Research Support: Lynne Bradley, Dr Marc Brouard, Dr Keith McMahon, Sam Crofts

Research Associates: Dr Lionel Cole

Recent Publications

Simmonds, E.G., Cole, E.F., Sheldon, B.C. & Coulson, T. (2020). Phenological asynchrony, a ticking time-bomb for seemingly stable populations? Ecology Letters   


M Bosse, LG Spurgin, VN Laine, EF Cole, JA Firth, P Gienapp, AG Gosler, K McMahon, J Poissant, I Verhagen, MAM Groenen, K van Oers, BC Sheldon, ME Visser & J Slate (2017). Recent natural selection causes adaptive evolution of an avian polygenic trait. Science 358: 365-368.

EF Cole & BC Sheldon (2017). The shifting phonological landscape: within- and between-species variation in leaf emergence in a mixed-deciduous woodland. Ecology and Evolution 7: 1135-1147.

Firth, J.A. & Sheldon, B.C. (2016). Social carry-over effects underpin trans-seasonally linked structure in a wild bird population. Ecology Letters 19, 1324-1332.

LM Aplin, DR Farine, J Morand-Ferron, A Cockburn, A Thornton & BC Sheldon (2015). Experimentally induced innovations lead to persistent culture via conformity in wild birds. Nature 518: 538-541.

AE Hinks, EF Cole, KJ Daniels, TA Wilkin, S Nakagawa, BC Sheldon (2015). Scale-dependent phonological synchrony between songbirds and their caterpillar food source. The American Naturalist 186: 84-97.