Katie Dunkley is a behavioural ecologist, based in the Department of Zoology, who aims to understand the dynamics of animal interactions and ecological networks. Her research focuses on behavioural interactions at a community level to explore how and why animals interact. She is particularly interested in understanding how changing ecological, environmental, and social conditions influence interaction outcomes. She is passionate about the marine environment and its conservation, with her previous and future research focusing on coral reefs.
Prior to joining Christ’s College in 2020, Katie completed her PhD on the ‘Dynamics of cleaner-client interactions in the Caribbean’ at Cardiff University. Cleaning involves a species removing parasites and debris from the body of another species (termed a client). This research was supported by her Marine Biology BSc (University of Plymouth) and MSc in Animal Behaviour (University of Exeter). Her knowledge on cleaning interactions, which connect a large proportion of the reef fish community, led her to question 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. Indeed, Darwin himself described life as "an entangled bank … [with] elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner”. Katie is quantifying these complex dependencies on coral reefs. She is using the latest methods in machine learning to construct a reef-based ecological network which will render a conservation tool to study the structure and resilience of coral reef ecosystems. Following in Darwin’s footsteps, her work focuses on the interactions that occur on the Galápagos, in partnership with the Charles Darwin Foundation and the Galápagos Conservation Trust.