Dr Daniel Franks

Reader

Overview

Key Research Interests

Most animals are embedded in complex societies, and individuals differ in their tendency to interact with others and in their position in a social network. Animal social strategies are important to understand because they can impact fitness, health, collective actions, and life-history.


Figure 1: A social network of interactions among resident killer whales. Sons and daughters stick with their mother their entire lives, forming close-knit family groups.

A social network of interactions among resident killer whales.

Dan’s research group aims to understand ecological systems from a behavioural and evolutionary perspective, with a focus on social behaviour and life-history evolution. His interdisciplinary team uses a variety of empirical and statistical approaches, along with computational models and social network analysis.

One of my study species is the fish-eating resident killer whale (orca). Resident orcas is an endangered and iconic species, and lives in highly social and closely knit societies.  Their life-history is extremely interesting with females living into their 80s and 90s yet ceasing reproduction (as with menopause) half-way through their life. Our research has shown that killer whales are dependent on their mothers and grandmothers for their entire lives, and that old post-reproductive females play a crucial role in leading their family group to food - especially in years of need.


Figure 2: Older post-reproductive females lead their family group to food – especially in times of need.

Older post-reproductive females lead their family group to food

Research Group

NameStatusProject
Kristine Meise Postdoctoral Research Associate Interspecific information transfer as a driver of multispecies structure.

Stuart Nattrass

Postdoctoral Research Associate The evolution of life-history in resident killer whales.

Sam Ellis

Postdoctoral Research Associate The evolution of life-history in resident killer whales.

Joseph Butterick

PhD Student Modelling individual strategies for animal group living.

Bruce Rawlings

PhD Student Behavioural innovation, personality, and social networks in chimpanzees and children

Stefan Stoican

PhD Student Understanding human crowd behaviour in virtual environments: using games to improve behavioural research and behavioural research to improve games.

Matthew Prinold

PhD Student Swarm robotics and collective drone behaviour.

Iván García Nisa

PhD Student Communication and cultural transmission in populations of wild bearded capuchins.

Dominic Burns

PhD Student Dynamic networks in dominant ants: how flexible are they in response to environmental change?.

Giacomo D’Ammando

PhD Student The evolutionary ecology of multiple signaling systems.

Robert Perryman

PhD Student Social networks and conservation of manta rays.

Teaching and Scholarship

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‌I believe that integrating research and teaching is the best way to immerse students in a topic. What I find most rewarding about teaching is helping students to develop general skills such as critical thinking and ability to synthesise and present arguments. I make use of my enthusiasm and my background in both biology and computer science to challenge students and train them with different ways of thinking and learning.

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I lecture in behavioural ecology - a subject that I specialize in for my research. I teach fundamental concepts in behavioural ecology such as animal social behaviour, conflicts, mating behaviour, predator-prey behaviour, and foraging behaviour.  I emphasise the evolutionary mechanisms that underpin these processes. As a joint appointment with computer science, I also lecture in evolutionary computation. Here, I teach how we can take inspiration from biological evolution to create self-evolving engineering solutions.

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‌I typically offer subjects related to behavioural ecology. In the past this has included topics such as the evolution of ageing and the evolution of reproductive cessation. I like to suggest broad topics to allow the students to lead discussion and move the tutorials into a direction within the topic of which they are enthusiastic. Tutorials are a fantastic way for students to develop their critical thinking skills and engage with scientific studies in more detail.

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I offer projects relating to the analysis of animal social networks, the evolution of ageing, and computer modelling.

 

Publications


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Dr Daniel Franks

Contact details

Dr Daniel Franks
Reader
Department of Biology
University of York
York
YO10 5DD

Tel: 01904 325342

http://danfranks.weebly.com