Group-living animals are affected by both the physical and social environment they inhabit, influencing population dynamic processes such as reproductive success, survival and dispersal patterns; all of which ultimately shape the evolution of a species.
During my PhD I examined the social structure of white-winged choughs (Corcorax melanorhamphos), a highly social species of Australian bird. Choughs are obligate cooperative breeders, meaning they must breed in groups to produce offspring successfully. I explored the influence of variable climatic conditions on the population genetics of choughs and the fitness consequences of varying levels of relatedness between group members. I used network analysis to investigate the social dynamics within cooperative groups including the patterns of associations among individuals according to life history traits (age, sex), relatedness, cooperative efforts and personality.