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Department of Zoology



I completed my NERC funded PhD, which investigated the dynamics of cleaner-client interactions, at Cardiff University in 2019. This research was supported by a MSc in Animal Behaviour from the University of Exeter (2014 - 2015), and a BSc in Marine Biology from the University of Plymouth (2009 - 2012). I began my 4 year Junior Research Fellowship with Christ's College in October 2020. 

I am a member of the Marine Behavioural Ecology Group. 


My research aims to understand the dynamics of animal interactions and ecological networks. It focuses on behavioural interactions at a community level to explore how and why animals interact. I am particularly interested in understanding how changing ecological, environmental, and social conditions influence interaction outcomes in reef environments. 

I am currently investigating how different species are intertwined across different interaction types (e.g. cooperation, competition and predation) and how these multiple relationships contribute to the health and stability of ecosystems. I am using supervised machine learning, an artificial intelligence method, to construct a reef-based ecological network, which will capture the interconnectedness of multiple interaction types that occur between Galapagos reef species. This network will provide a conservation tool to study the structure and resilience of reef ecosystems.

I am also continuing my PhD research, which identified conditions that cause variation in cleaner and client interaction decisions. I am using a unique and extensive long-term (8 year, 2010 - 2017) dataset which captures the cleaning interactions between a predominant Caribbean cleaner fish (Elacatinus evelynae) and over 47 different client fish species on the same reef in Tobago.


Key publications: 

Dunkley, K., Ioannou, C. C., Whittey, K. E., Cable, J., & Perkins, S. E. (2019). Cleaner personality and client identity have joint consequences on cleaning interaction dynamics. Behavioral Ecology30(3), 703-712.

Other publications: 

Dunkley, K., Ward, A. J., Perkins, S. E., & Cable, J. (2020). To clean or not to clean: Cleaning mutualism breakdown in a tidal environment. Ecology and Evolution, 10(6), 3043-3054. 

Dunkley, K., Ellison, A. R., Mohammed, R. S., van Oosterhout, C., Whittey, K. E., Perkins, S. E., & Cable, J. (2019). Long-term cleaning patterns of the sharknose goby (Elacatinus evelynae). Coral Reefs, 38(2), 321-330.

Dunkley, K., Cable, J., & Perkins, S. E. (2018). The selective cleaning behaviour of juvenile blue-headed wrasse (Thalassoma bifasciatum) in the Caribbean. Behavioural Processes, 147, 5-12.

Junior Research Fellow, Christ's College