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Dr Rebecca Pike

Dr Rebecca Pike

Dr Rebecca Pike
BSc (Hons), PGCE, PhD, BSc(Bristol), PGCE(Lond.)

Senior Teaching Associate

Area of research

Theoretical Behavioural Biology

Life Sciences Building,
24 Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1TQ
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Summary

Pike et al. (2016). A general expression for the reproductive value of behaviour

Information transfer and utilization is ubiquitous in nature. Animals can increase their reproductive value by changing their behavior in light of new information. Previous work has shown that the reproductive value of information can never be negative given an animal behaves optimally. Statistical decision theory uses Bayes’ theorem as a mathematical tool to model how animals process information gained from their environment. We use this technique with an optimality model to establish a new expression for the value of information when behavior is chosen from a continuous range of possibilities. Our expression highlights that the value of information is proportional to the rate of change of behavior with information. We illustrate our approach using the cooperative behavior between a male and a female raising their common young. We show that the value of knowing about one’s partner can be quantified and establish the value of information to a member of the pair when the continuous trait is how long to spend caring for their young. However, the applications of this expression are wider reaching than parental care decisions and can be used to analyze the behavior of individuals across a variety of species and contexts.

 

Energy-Predation Trade-off for a parent feeding its young

Parents feeding their young during the breeding season face a trade-off between provisioning their young with food for growth and mortality risk. When mortality to both parent and young is considered, can describing mortality risk as a single effect sufficiently predict parental behaviour? We consider mortality functions for both parent and young which comprise of the sum of a background mortality risk and a mortality risk attributed to parental behaviour. Mortality functions of this nature generate novel predictions of parental behaviour. We find that a parent should invest a greater proportion of time in being vigilant for predators with an increase in the mortality parameter determining the proportion of parental effort that contributes to mortality of the young. An increase in other mortality parameters prompt an opposite effect. Our new expression shows that mortality should be described by multiple parameters to fully predict how a parent should behave.

Biography

Academic Qualifications

PhD Biological Science, University of Bristol. (Supervisors Prof. A.I. Houston FRS & Prof. J.M. McNamara FRS).

BSci(Hons) Mathematics, University of Bristol.

 

Other

PGCE Institute of Education (IOE), UCL

Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), Department for Education

 

 

 

Activities / Findings

Pike R.K., McNamara, J.M. and Houston, A.I. (2016). A general expression for the reproductive value of behaviour, Behavioural Ecology.

Information transfer and utilization is ubiquitous in nature. Animals can increase their reproductive value by changing their behavior in light of new information. Previous work has shown that the reproductive value of information can never be negative given an animal behaves optimally. Statistical decision theory uses Bayes’ theorem as a mathematical tool to model how animals process information gained from their environment. We use this technique with an optimality model to establish a new expression for the value of information when behavior is chosen from a continuous range of possibilities. Our expression highlights that the value of information is proportional to the rate of change of behavior with information. We illustrate our approach using the cooperative behavior between a male and a female raising their common young. We show that the value of knowing about one’s partner can be quantified and establish the value of information to a member of the pair when the continuous trait is how long to spend caring for their young. However, the applications of this expression are wider reaching than parental care decisions and can be used to analyze the behavior of individuals across a variety of species and contexts.

 

Pike, R.K., McNamara, J.M. and Houston, A.I. (2018). The role of mortality risk in parental behaviour, Evolutionary Ecology Research

Background: A parent feeding its young during the breeding season faces a tradeoff between mortality risk and provisioning young with food for growth.

Question: How should the parent behave to maximise reproductive success when mortality to both parent and young are considered?

Mathematical method: Using an optimality model, we establish new formulae to describe parental behaviour when there is a trade-off between growth rate of the young and mortality risk to both parent and young.

Key assumptions: We consider mortality functions for both parent and young. These comprise the sum of a background mortality risk and a mortality risk attributed to parental behaviour.

Conclusions: Mortality is an important parameter in the determination of parental behaviour. As the dependence of the mortality of the young on parental effort grows, a parent should invest a greater proportion of time in being vigilant for predators. An increase in other mortality parameters prompts the opposite effect. Mortality should be described by multiple parameters to predict fully how a parent should behave.

Teaching

I teach in all 4 years of the degree programmes at the University of Bristol.

  • Key Concepts (1st year)
  • Conservation Biology (2nd year)
  • Acquisition of Behaviour (2nd year)
  • Optimisation, Behaviour and Life Histories (3rd year)
  • Advanced Practical Skills (3rd year)
  • Professional Development for the Life Sciences (4th year)

I also run a yearly animal behaviour field course to Slimbridge, supervise 3 pairs of 3rd year practical project students per year, 6-8 literature review students per year, 1-2 Msci students per year and run tutorials as a personal tutor for all 4 years.

 

Keywords

  • Parental care
  • Pair bond
  • Value of Information
  • Cooperation
  • Optimisation models

Selected publications

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Recent publications

View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system

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