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Leila Walker


I graduated from Cambridge in 2007 with a BA (hons) degree in Zoology. I have since spent two seasons as a field assistant on Tiritiri Matangi Island in New Zealand, monitoring the resident hihi population, and a field season working as a research assistant for the RSPB on a project investigating lapwing breeding success.

Research Interests

My PhD research will be focusing on the plumage colouration of an endemic New Zealand passerine, the hihi (Notiomystis cincta). Ornamental traits are widespread in the natural world and the brilliant and elaborate plumage of birds has long been documented and studied. Theoretical and empirical research has emphasised the relevance of viewing ornamental displays, such as the colourful plumage of birds, as a signal. The cost of producing and maintaining such a signal is proposed to ensure signal honesty and thus reliably reflect individual condition and/or inherent genetic quality.

Whilst a number of environmental variables have been proposed to influence ornamental colour expression, knowledge of how multiple environmental and genetic factors interact to produce a colourful trait is lacking. My PhD work therefore aims to quantify the relative contribution of identified genetic and environmental factors to plumage colour, via study of the hihi population on Tiritiri Matangi Island, New Zealand.