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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.


I am currently module leader for Introduction to Animal Behaviour at Level Four and Behavioural & Evolutionary Ecology at Level Six. I also teach on a number of undergraduate modules including Applied Animal Behaviour, Behavioural Ecology, Welfare and Behaviour Management, Stress and Welfare Assessment in Animals, Field Ecology, and Physiology and Behaviour

I am the pathway leader for our MRes Biological Sciences (Wildlife Behaviour & Conservation). If you are interested in applying for this programme, please see the programme page.

I am very interested in the development of novel methods of assessment in Higher Education and previously worked as a Post-doctoral Research Assistant on a project at the University of Manchester on interdisciplinary research projects for final year dissertation students. I believe problem-based learning and research-centred teaching are essential in Higher Education and try to use these methods wherever possible in my own teaching. I am also a strong supporter of integrating science communication skills within undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.


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 to answer key questions in behavioural ecology. I am very interested in the practical applications of behavioural research to conservation, especially to reintroductions and the management of small or fragmented populations. I am particularly keen to apply social network theory to practical conservation projects, as covered in this review paper that I recently co-authored.

I am currently working on a project investigating social dynamics and captive management of Livingstone’s fruit bats with Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust . I am also a member of the West African Primate Conservation Action (WAPCA) Research Group, based in Ghana. Together, we are carrying out a long-term research project to assess the prevalence, habitat requirements and co-distribution of critically endangered primate species across Ghanaian forests. We currently recruit two MRes students each year to work on this project - please email me if you are interested in applying to join this project.

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

Suggested MPhil/PhD projects:

  • Conservation grazing by feral ponies: foraging behaviour and impacts on biodiversity
  • Social behaviour and ex situ conservation in fruit bats
  • Interspecific social behaviour in African ungulates

Published Work

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
  • FHEA, PGCert (Teaching & Learning in Higher Education) - University of Chester