I'm a quantitative ecologist interested in the use of computer models for investigating ecological problems. I’m particularly interested in how we can apply these techniques to make best use of existing datasets.
I'm currently in the third year of my PhD at Newcastle University where I study sociality in carnivores. My project looks at how and why animals form groups and the relationships between different factors that are thought to influence sociality in mammalian carnivores.
Some species are highly social, from African Wild Dogs hunting in packs to take down large prey to Meerkats taking turns to keep an eye out for predators. Other species however are more variable in their social activities, European badgers can be highly social in some parts of their range but live solitary lives in other parts of their range. Although many of these species are well studied questions still exist as to why these species form social groups.
My research has a particular focus on behaviours relating to food acquisition, territorial defence and predator defence as well as investigating the evolutionary consequences of sociality. Developing our understanding of how and why animals form groups can help us to better understand how to conserve and protect threatened species and further our understanding of what data are needed to answer future ecological questions.
Throughout my PhD I have also developed a strong interest in how we teach quantitative methods and coding skills particularly to ecologists, and how these skills can empower learners to solve complex problems. I hope to use the fellowship to promote best practices for software use amongst ecologists and to encourage educators to incorporate these thoughts into their teaching.
My institutional website
Follow me on Twitter @JKRWard
Check out contributions by and mentions of Jessica Ward on www.software.ac.uk