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About Dr Christina Stanley

I joined the University of Chester in August 2015 after completing my PhD at the University of Manchester. My thesis work explored social behaviour (in particular mother-offspring relationships and social stability), demography and population genetics in a semi-feral pony population: the Carneddau mountain ponies in Snowdonia National Park, North Wales. Alongside this I carried out experimental work on Diploptera punctata, the Pacific beetle roach, in the laboratory to investigate social structure, personality and kin effects on development in this species. See press coverage of this work on PLOS research news.       

I first discovered my passion for behavioural ecology at the University of Cambridge, where I read Natural Sciences (Zoology) as an undergraduate. Following this, I worked with domestic horses for a while before returning to university to gain an MSc in Behavioural and Evolutionary Ecology at Manchester Metropolitan University. For my MSc thesis, I studied the effects of burned habitat on vigilance and foraging behaviour in waterbuck, Thompson’s gazelle and plains zebra in Ol Pejeta reserve, Nanyuki, Kenya.

I then worked as a research assistant on two projects: social behaviour and demography in Carneddau mountain ponies with Dr Susannne Shultz, University of Liverpool, and social networks in feral goat populations with Prof. Robin Dunbar, University of Oxford. I also collected behavioural data on cape mountain zebra in De Hoop reserve, South Africa alongside my PhD work.


Teaching and supporting learning to the best of my ability is something I am passionate about. I continually work to improve my own teaching practice by keeping up to date with developments in the field. I am always keen to try new approaches and to involve students as partners in module and programme design, ensuring the methods I use suit a diverse community of learners. For example, read more in my Times Higher Education Campus article about how we can better support learning confidence online. I also support colleagues in delivering teaching excellence across the Faculty of Medicine and Life Sciences and the University as a whole in my role as Senior University Teaching Fellow. 

I am currently lead two MSc programmes: MSc Animal Behaviour and MSc Animal Welfare. I am also module leader for Introduction to Animal Behaviour at Level Four (first year), Behavioural & Evolutionary Ecology at Level Six (third year) and Behavioural Ecology in a Changing World at Level 7 (MSc and MRes). I teach on a number of other BSc and MSc modules including Applied Animal Behaviour, Behavioural Ecology, Welfare & Behaviour Management, Stress & Welfare Assessment in Animals, Domestic Animal Behaviour & Welfare, Physiology & Behaviour, Contemporary Issues in Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare & Ethics. I usually lead an annual level 5 field trip to Somkhanda game reserve, South Africa, on our Experiential Learning module and have been involved with a number of other field trips to destinations such as Anglesey, Spain and Madagascar. I am also a strong supporter of integrating science communication skills within undergraduate and postgraduate programmes and use this as an assessment tool at both levels 6 and 7.


My main research interest is in the drivers of animal social structure, particularly in the strength and diversity of inter-individual relationships. I also explore novel applications of social network analysis, both to answer key questions in behavioural ecology and to inform captive animal management and conservation projects.

I currently lead a project investigating social dynamics and captive management of Livingstone’s fruit bats with Jersey Zoo in collaboration with Prof Tessa Smith, Dr Lottie Hosie and PhD student Morgan Welsh. I am also a member of the West African Primate Conservation Action (WAPCA) Research Group, based in Ghana, with whom I have supervised a number of MRes projects to assess the prevalence, habitat requirements and co-distribution of critically endangered primate species across Ghanaian forests. Other current projects include welfare evaluation in semi-feral ponies in collaboration with the Carneddau Pony Society and PONT, the use of conservation grazing for maintaining habitat suitable for great-crested newts and exploring the social dynamics of golden monkeys in Rwanda.

I am interested in supervising Master’s and PhD projects involving novel applications of social network analysis to animal behaviour, conservation and welfare research, as well as research on feral equid demography and behaviour (including conservation grazing schemes) and domestic horse welfare. 

Please email me for more information on how to apply for these projects or if you are interested in collaborations.

 Link to researchgate profile

 Twitter: @crstanley_rsrch


    Published Work

    Edwards, M. J., Hosie, C. A., Smith, T. E., Wormell, D., Price, E., & Stanley, C. R. (in press). Principal Component Analysis as a Novel Method for the Assessment of the Enclosure Use Patterns of Captive Livingstone’s Fruit Bats (Pteropus livingstonii). Applied Animal Behaviour Science

    Harley, J.J.; Stack, J.D.; Braid, H.; McLennan, K.M.; Stanley, C.R. (2021). Evaluation of the Feasibility, Reliability, and Repeatability of Welfare Indicators in Free-Roaming Horses: A Pilot Study. Animals 11, 1981.

    Panaccio, M., Ferrari, C., Bassano, B., Stanley, C.R. & von Hardenberg, A. (2021). Social Network Analysis of small social groups: application of a hurdle GLMMs approach in the Alpine marmot (Marmota marmota). Ethology DOI: 10.1111/eth.13151

    Welch, M. J., Smith, T., Hosie, C., Wormell, D., Price, E., & Stanley, C. R. (2020). Social Experience of Captive Livingstone’s Fruit Bats (Pteropus livingstonii). Animals10(8), 1321. doi:10.3390/ani10081321

    Nolan R., Welsh A., Geary M., Hartley M., Dempsey A., Mono J.C., Osei D. & Stanley C.R.(2019). Camera Traps Confirm the Presence of the White-naped Mangabey Cercocebus lunulatusin Cape Three Points Forest Reserve, Western Ghana. Primate Conservation 33

    Fraser M.D., Stanley C.R. & Hegarty, M.J. (2019) Recognising the potential role of native ponies in conservation management. Biological Conservation 235, 112-118

    Stanley C.R., Liddiard Williams H., Preziosi R.F.  (2018) Female clustering in cockroach aggregations—A case of social niche construction? Ethology.

    Snijders, L., Blumstein, D. T., Stanley C. R., Franks, D. W. (2017): Animal Social Network Theory Can Help Wildlife Conservation. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 32(8): 567-577 DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2017.05.005 

    Stanley, C.R., Mettke-Hofmann, C., Hager, R. & Shultz, S. (2018) Social stability in semiferal ponies: networks show interannual stability alongside seasonal flexibility. Animal Behaviour 136: 175-184 DOI10.1016/j.anbehav.2017.04.013

    Stanley, C.R., Mettke-Hofmann, C. & Preziosi, R.F. (2017) Personality in the cockroach Diploptera punctata: Evidence for stability across developmental stages despite age effects on boldness. PLoS ONE 12(5): e0176564.

    Hartley, M. & Stanley, C.R. (2016) Survey of reproduction and calf rearing in Asian and African elephants in European zoos. Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research, 4(3), 139-146

    Stanley, C.R. (2014) Conservation genetics of wild ponies. Biological Sciences Review, 2, 2-6

    Stanley, C.R. & Dunbar, R.I.M. (2013) Consistent social structure and optimal clique size revealed by social network analysis of feral goats, Capra hircusAnimal Behaviour, 85(4), 771-779

    Stanley, C.R. & Shultz, S. (2012) Mummy's boys: sex differential maternal-offspring bonds in semi-feral horses. Behaviour, 149, 251-274


    • MA (hons) cantab Natural Sciences (Zoology) - University of Cambridge
    • MSc (distinction) Behavioural & Evolutionary Ecology - Manchester Metropolitan University
    • PhD Animal Biology - University of Manchester
    • SFHEA, PGCert (Teaching & Learning in Higher Education) - University of Chester