Kathryn Arnold
Research Fellow



Kathryn joined the department in April 2010 as a Royal Society University Research Fellow. Prior to that, she held research positions at the University of Glasgow and University of Queensland.

Kathryn is an ecologist working mainly on the behavioural and physiological responses of vertebrates to changes in the environment. Her current research falls mainly into two areas: 1) the assessment of exposure to and effects of contaminants on wildlife and 2) the ecology of rural and urban birds. However, she also maintains an interest in the social behaviour of birds, insects, fish and manta rays. Her work has included projects in Australia, the Maldives, Malaysia and Scotland. Kathryn chairs the Environment Department's Ethical Review Committee and sits on the University's Athena Swan working group which aims to promote the interests of women in science.


PhD Zoology University of Queensland, Australia
BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences University of East Anglia, UK



Kathryn's research focuses on the impacts of social and environmental factors on behaviour, stress physiology, reproductive success, and susceptibility to oxidative damage. Current projects are investigating the effects of pollution and pharmaceuticals in the environment on vertebrates.

Previous studies have demonstrated the downstream impacts of early nutrition, driven for example by climate induced changes in prey abundance, on individual fitness. She is particularly interested in utilising state of the art techniques for measuring antioxidant levels, oxidative stress and disease prevalence in small vertebrates.

Dr. Alistair Boxall, University of York
Beatrice Hernout, University of York


Individual variation in behaviour: Confronted with the same environmental or behavioural stressors, individuals of the same species often differ markedly in their behaviour. For example, some individuals are always more risk-prone or exploratory than others. We refer to these differences as "personality" traits Dr Arnold's group have been investigating whether these individual differences in behavioural responses are accompanied by variation in underlying stress metabolism and oxidative stress.

Katherine Herborn, University of Glasgow
Dr Lucille Alexander, Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition

maternal effects birds in nest

Maternal Effects: Reproduction is an expensive business. Mothers, in particular, put a lot of time and energy into making eggs and caring for young, at the expense of their own well being. Dr. Arnold has been investigating how mothers partition resources among young and how that affects the development and long term fitness of offspring. In birds, for example, mothers put substances into yolk that can influence the development of the egg. These include antioxidants, such as carotenoids (responsible for red and yellow colours in nature) and vitamin E, which enhance immune function and reduce the damage to organs caused by the build-up of harmful waste products. Parents also provide food to offspring. Selection of particular prey items might be vital for providing nutrients essential to normal growth.  Dr Arnold's group use a range of avian model species to investigate maternal effects.

Dr. Stephen Larcombe , EGI, University of Oxford
Dr Scot Ramsay (PDRA), Macaulay Land Use Research Institute
Dr Ruedi Nager, Division of Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, University of Glasgow

Sexual Signalling and colour preferences in birds: Fluorescence is widely used by humans as a 'highlighter' to attract attention. Research by Dr Arnold and colleagues shows that Australian parrots use their fluorescent plumage, which literally 'glows', to attract the attention of the opposite sex.

Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus) under normal illumination  Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus) under UV illumination 
 Budgerigar (Melopsittacus undulatus) under normal illumination Budgerigar under UV illumination - note the fluorescent yellow patches 

Dr Justin Marshall, Vision, Touch & Hearing Research Centre, The University of Queensland
Dr Ian Owens, Department of Biology and NERC Centre for Population Biology, Imperial College at Silwood Park, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7PY, UK
Katherine Herborn, Division of Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, University of Glasgow
Loch Lomond Fieldwork - people

Sex Allocation in Birds: Ongoing research focuses on sex allocation in birds and fish. This started as a BBSRC funded project with Richard Griffiths and David Houston. There is increasing evidence that female birds manipulate the sex of their offspring in response to environmental and social factors. We have been investigating when and how this is achieved, mainly using the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) and blue tit as models.

Lindsay Henderson
kin recognition in fish

Kin Recognition in Fish: One of my main interests is the evolution of sociality and group living. Essential to this is determining whether animals are able to recognise individuals, particularly those that they are related to. Living with relatives can be beneficial to individuals via the evolution of kin-directed altruism, but this is tempered by the increased risk of inbreeding. Therefore, in social species the ability to recognise relatives can be highly advantageous. This study focused on kin discrimination in the Lake Eacham rainbowfish, Melanotaenia eachamensis, and cooperatively breeding cichlids.

Dr Barbara Mable, Division of Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, University of Glasgow
Michael Taborsky, University of Berne
Ashley Le Vin, Division of Environmental and Evolutionary Biology, University of Glasgow


2007-2012 Royal Society Paternal attractiveness, maternal investment and offspring fitness
2007-2007 Royal Society of Edinburgh International exchange programme - IEP Hungary
2005-2005 Leverhulme Trust Does neonatal need for taurine explain parental prey selection in Parids?
2004-2004 NERC Does neonatal need for taurine explain parental prey selection in Parids?
2003-2004 NERC Fluorescent sexual signalling in parrots - differential allocation and offspring fitness
2002-2007 Royal Society Paternal attractiveness, maternal investment and offspring fitness


Current students

LJ Henderson 2007-2010 NERC Sex ratio adjustments in birds: linking environmental conditions and physiological mechanisms.
AL Le Vin 2006-2010 BBSRC Kin Recognition in Cooperatively Breeding Fish: Behavioural Variation and Molecular Mechanisms
KA Herborn 2006-2009 BBSRC Industrial CASE Colour Preferences in Birds: Species Variation, Associative Learning and Foraging Decisions

Recent students

SD Larcombe 2004-2007 BBSRC Industrial CASE Roles of dietary antioxidants and oxidative stress in mediating firness related traits in birds

External activities


  • 2000-ongoing, Member, International Society for Behavioral Ecology
  • 1996-ongoing, Member, Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour

Grant Committees and Research Advisory Boards

  • Contributor to DTI 2020: Science and Knowledge Workshop, Department of Trade and Industry, 2006-2007
  • Contributor to Horizon Scanning Centre Workshop, Office of Science and Technology, 2006-2007
  • Member of Grant Assessment Panel for International Grants, Royal Society, 2005-ongoing

Editorial duties

  • 2008-ongoing, Editorial board Australian Journal of Zoology
  • 2005-ongoing, Editorial board Biology Letters

Invited talks and conferences

  • 2009 University of Glasgow - Invited talk at Biosciences careers fair. A PhD in the life sciences and life beyond
  • 2008 Invited contribution to workshop on 'Maternal effects: Underlying mechanisms and implications for life history evolution' at Adelboden, Switzerland. Sex-specific maternal effects
  • 2007 University of Berne, Switzerland - Invited Seminar, Parental provisioning decisions in birds
  • 2007 University of Uppsala, Sweden - Invited Seminar, Sex ratio manipulation
  • 2006 Vancouver, Canada - Invited Speaker at 3rd International E-BIRD Workshop on Individual variation - Does early nutrition affect behavioural responses to novel situations?
  • 2006 York, England - Invited seminar at University of York - The importance of a good start in life: maternal effects and offspring fitness
  • 2005 Budapest, Hungary - Invited Talk at International Ethological Congress - Maternal state, egg quality and offspring fitness
  • 2004 Oxford, England - Invited seminar at University of Oxford - Avian sex ratios: diet, sex and death
  • 2003 Brisbane, Australia - Seminar at University of Queensland - Avian sex ratios: diet, sex and death
  • 2003 Lund, Sweden - Seminar at University of Lund - Avian sex ratios: diet, sex and death
Arnold, Kate 

Contact details

Dr Kathryn Arnold
Environment Department
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: 01904 322997
Fax: 01904 322998