Rob Spencer is a behavioural ecologist, he uses evolutionary theory to understand behaviour. Rob applies behavioural studies and the methods of behavioural ecology to conservation issues to investigate the extent to which behaviour can be used as an indicator of conservation threats.
In his research he conducts fieldwork to study the behaviour of animals in the environments they inhabit and develops mathematical and statistical models to investigate that behaviour. He is interested in applying evolutionary game theory to real populations of animals in the wild.
Rob did his PhD in the Department of Psychology at Middlesex University. His thesis examined kleptoparasitic (food stealing) behaviours in populations of foraging gulls (Laridae). All UK gull species are classed as species of conservation concern. He used observational field methods, field experiments, and game-theoretical modelling to investigate the functional significance of kleptoparasitism in gull populations in different environments.
He is particularly interested in the link between behaviour and behavioural responses to rapid environmental change and other anthropogenic threats. This includes the behaviours of species that invade novel environments and what this can tell us about the types of biodiversity likely to survive the process of urbanisation driven by increasing human populations.
Rob is a member of the Royal Society of Biology (MRSB) and currently holds the post of Associate Lecturer in the Department of Psychology.
Graduate Diploma Psychology, University of East London, 2009
BA(Hons.) History, University of East London, 1998
Learning & Teaching Interests
PSY3027 Evolutionary Approaches to Behaviour
PSY3330 Animal behaviour residential field trip to Lundy Island
PSY4011 Advanced Research Methods (MSc)
Research Outputs & Interests
Applying Evolutionary Game Theory to real foraging populations
Applying Behavioural Ecology to conservation
The Urban Gulls of Bath
Various bird ringing projects authorised by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO)
Spencer, R., Russell, Y., Dickins, B.J. & Dickins, T.E. (2016). Kleptoparasitism in gulls Laridae at an urban and a coastal foraging environment: an assessment of ecological predictors, Bird Study, DOI: 10.1080/00063657.2016.1249821
Spencer, R. & Dickins, T.E. (2014.) Differences in aggression and nest behaviour between herring gulls (Larus argentatus) and lesser black backed gulls (Larus fuscus) on Lundy. Journal of the Lundy Field Society, 4, 85-104
Dickins, T.E., Pawson, C. & Spencer, R. (2011). Strategy and Rioting: Academic Letter. The Psychologist, 24, 11, 796-797.
Spencer, R. (2017). Kleptoparasitism in urban and coastal gulls. Invited blog post for the British Ornithologists’ Union (BOU). Published online August 21st 2017 at https://www.bou.org.uk/blog-spencer-gull-kleptoparasitism/
Spencer, R. (2012). The missing unit of inheritance: Cultural Evolution’s elephant in the room. A review of Alex Mesoudi (2011) Cultural Evolution: How Darwinian theory can explain human culture and synthesize the social sciences. University of Chicago Press. Journal of evolutionary psychology, 10, 3, 149-153.
Dickins, T.E., King, R., Pawson, C. & Spencer, R. (2012). Online technical comment on: Riddihough, G., Chin, G., Culotta, E., Jasny, B., Roberts, L. & Vignieri, S. (2012). Human Conflict: Winning the peace, Science, Vol. 336, no. 6083, 818-819. URL https://comments.sciencemag.org%2fcontent%2f10.1126%2fscience.336.6083.818
Spencer, R. & Broom, M. Modelling kleptoparasitism in an urban gull (Laridae) population. Conference presentation at the Mathematical Modelling in Ecology & Evolution Conference 2017 (MMEE2017), at City, University of London, 10 – 12 July 2017.
Spencer, R. Applying game theory to kleptoparasitic foraging data from an urban gull (Laridae) population. Research presentation at the 4C (Conflict, Competition, Cooperation & Complexity) Modelling Project Workshop. City, University of London, 4 – 7 July 2017.
Spencer, R. Kleptoparasitism by gulls (Laridae) in urban and shoreline foraging environments. Talking poster presentation at the British Ornithologists Union (BOU) Conference on: Urban Birds: Pressures, processes and consequences, University of Leicester, 5-7 April 2016.
Spencer, R. Kleptoparasitism by gulls (Laridae) in urban environments. Conference presentation at the London Evolutionary Research Network (LERN) 2015 Conference, QMUL, 11 November 2015.
Spencer, R. & Clark, A. Behavioural differences between Herring gulls (Larus argentatus) and Lesser Black-backed gulls (Larus fuscus) in an offshore environment. Poster presented at the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB) Easter Conference, Aberystwyth University 11-13 April 2012.
King, R., Spencer, R., Pawson, C., & Dickins, T.E.Reading the Riot Acts. Poster presented at the European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association, Durham University, 25 – 28 March 2012.