Banded Mongoose Team

mike_cant

Prof Michael Cant

Professor of Evolutionary Biology

M.A.Cant@exeter.ac.uk


My research aims to understand patterns of behaviour and life history in social animals, particularly animals that exhibit cooperative behaviour, such as the banded mongoose. Building on some pioneering research in the 70s and early 90s, I started the current phase of the Banded Mongoose Research Project in 1995 for my PhD research, with the help of Francis Mwanguhya who is now the Field Manager. The project has grown in size and complexity over the years, not least because banded mongooses have turned out to be ideal for testing theories about cooperation and conflict, early life influences on health and behaviour, and how the features of a society shape an animal’s life history. They are also unusual in many respects – males live longer than females, females synchronise birth to the same day, and males form one-to-one relationships with pups that are not their own, to name just three. Our research on how and why these patterns occur has contributed to a better understanding of the lives and behaviour of animals that live in families and groups.
Our research has contributed to a better understanding of the lives and behaviour of animals that live in families and groups.
I am responsible for the day to day management and organisation of the field work.

Francis Mwanguhya

Field Manager


I am the Banded Mongoose Research Project Field Manager and have been working with the mongooses together with Mike since 1996. I am responsible for the day to day management and organisation of the field work. I have enjoyed seeing the project grow and develop over the years, and still enjoy seeing the mongooses every day. I particularly enjoy seeing new packs form in our population as I like the challenge of habituating wild individuals and comparing the behaviour of new packs with established ones. For this reason, I have a soft spot for Pack 19, a new pack on the peninsula, and am keen to get to know them as they become more habituated. I like reading novels and my favourite book is Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I am also a keen sportsman and Manchester United fan. I have a wife, Edna, and four children: Sylvia, Evelyn, Shivan and Kelvin.

Francis
Soloman

Solomon Kyabulima

Senior Research Assistant


I started working on the Banded Mongoose Research Project back in 2001 and so have a great deal of knowledge and experience with the mongooses. My favourite pack is Pack 1H because, even though they don’t encounter humans very much, they are still really habituated and fun to work with. I particularly like doing pup and oestrus focals because it’s exciting to see pups competing for their escorts and to see males fighting to mate with females! I love seeing other wildlife in QENP while I work, and I have many stories of encounters with elephants. I like to travel to new places and see different parts of Uganda. I’m an avid supporter of Manchester United and like to watch them on TV when I can. My wife, Agnes, and I have three children: Wellness, Happiness and Greatness. My greatest wish is for them to get a good education.

I love seeing other wildlife in QENP while I work and have many stories of encounters with elephants.
I'm a talented footballer myself and regularly play in defence for the Mweya Hippos.

Kenneth Mwesige

Research Assistant


I joined the project in 2010 and have quickly become a knowledgeable and valued member of the team. I’m another Pack 1H fan and enjoy working with them because they are playful, fun and cheeky. A favourite part of my work is oestrus focals because I find it interesting to see males fiercely mate guarding females, and pestering males trying desperately to sneak a mating behind their back! In my spare time, I love all things football. My team is Arsenal and Theo Walcott is my favourite player. I’m a talented footballer myself and regularly play in defence for the Mweya Hippos. I have a wife, Christine, and a son, M. Edison.

Kenneth
Robert

Robert Businge

Research Assistant


I’m a relatively new addition to the team, starting on the project in 2011. I’ve enjoyed my work since day one, and combine fieldwork with a special interest in veterinary and laboratory technical work. I take all blood samples and really enjoy trapping the mongooses ensuring they are handled with upmost care and attention. My favourite pack is Pack 2 because I spent a lot of time habituating them and know them really well. My hard work has paid off as this previously nervous and skittish pack is now very calm and comfortable in our presence. I’m also a trained mechanic and try wherever possible to fix our vehicles when they break down. I have aspirations to one day set up my own business working with cars. I’m a football fanatic and am a passionate Manchester United, and Wayne Rooney, supporter. I also like playing football for the Mweya Hippos and watching Jean Claude Van Damme action movies!

I'm also a trained mechanic and try wherever possible to fix our vehicles when they break down.
My favourite group is pack 19, as this was my first group and I have spent a lot of time with them.

Solomon Ahabyona

Research Assistant


I have been working for the mongoose project since 2012. My favourite group is pack 19, as this was my first group and I have spent a lot of time with them. I enjoy taking care of pack 1B and pack 2’s territory and habituating groups. In my spare time I enjoy watching football, supporting Manchester United.

Wayne Soloman_cropped
Dr-Emma-Vitikainen

Dr Emma Vitikainen

Research Fellow

E.I.K.Vitikainen@exeter.ac.uk


Cooperation is ubiquitous in nature, and why and how animals cooperate is one of the big questions in evolutionary biology. I want to understand how social behaviour affects fitness and health of individuals, and how this feeds into life history allocation and evolution of sociality. Banded mongooses are an ideal system for studying these effects. Egalitarian at first sight, pack members vary a lot in the amount of help the give to and receive from others. My current project investigates the impacts of early-life social environment: whether some mongoose pups born with a ‘silver spoon’ also do better as adults, and the proximate role of oxidative stress and telomere dynamics in senescence and life history evolution.
I want to understand how social behaviour affects the fitness and health of individuals.
My research focuses on the ecological and early-life conditions that drive individual differences.

Dr Harry Marshall

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

h.marshall@exeter.ac.uk


I am a behavioural ecologist interested in animal social behaviour and conservation. My research on the banded mongooses focuses on the ecological and early-life conditions that drive individual differences in behaviour, foraging niche and cognitive ability. I am interested in how these differences influence individuals’ survival and reproduction and the implications this has for our understanding of the evolution of sociality and how social animals will be influenced by environmental change. In particular, I have been investigating the role that ecological variability plays in these processes, and recently found that more variable environments reduce the proportion of banded mongoose females in a group and promote male helping behaviour. At Mweya my favourite pack is 1H as they live in one of the wilder areas of the peninsula including some cliffs with some great views out over Lake Edward.

Dr Harry Marshall
Faye-Thompson

Dr Faye Thompson

Associate Research Fellow

f.j.thompson@exeter.ac.uk


I am a behavioural ecologist with broad interests in conservation, ecology and animal behaviour. My research investigates how conflict arises and is resolved in cooperative species, and how individual level behaviour can have group and population level effects. I study within- and between-group conflict and population dynamics in banded mongooses: specifically, I am interested in why individuals are evicted from their group and what happens to them after they leave. I also study aggressive interactions between neighbouring groups in the population to understand what drives groups to engage in costly fights with one another. I aim to explain how these conflicts can affect the behaviour and spatial organisation of groups, and the dynamics of the wider population.
My research investigates within and between group conflict and population dynamics in the banded mongoose.
I love it when I get a chance to visit the mongooses in their beautiful natural surroundings.

Dr Hazel Nichols

Lecturer

h.j.nichols@ljmu.ac.uk


My research interests centre on the evolution of cooperative animal societies. Just as in human societies, animals often disagree over how to split resources, with each individual wanting the lions share. My research investigates the causes of conflict within societies, how conflicts are resolved, and the impact this has at an individual and population-wide level. Banded mongooses provide an excellent system to study this in as there are many opportunities for conflict (e.g. over who gets to mate with who!). I often use genetic techniques in my work, for example, I conduct genetic paternity tests to find out which males are most successful at fathering offspring. I have also investigated the impact of the banded mongooses’ unusual patterns of dispersal and mating on the genetic structure of the population. Unfortunately, my interest in genetics means that I spend far more time in the lab and on computers than at the field site in Uganda, but I love it when I get a chance to visit the mongooses in their beautiful natural surroundings. I have been working on the mongooses since 2005 and I still find them absolutely fascinating little critters! While most of my work has been on mongooses, I am interested in many other social animals, and have recently been investigating pilot whale pods. In my spare time (when I have any!), I enjoy dancing – salsa in particular but also bachata, tango and lindy hop.
Dr-Hazel-Nichols
Dr-Michelle-Hares

Dr Michelle Hares

Postdoctoral Research Associate

m.c.hares@exeter.ac.uk


I am an evolutionary biologist who is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms that underlie variation of fitness within individuals. In particular I am interested in the molecular mechanisms of ageing with reference to telomere dynamics and how differences in telomere length and telomerase activity have co-evolved with fitness traits in wild populations of animals. As part of the banded mongoose project, I am investigating whether there is a cost with respect to telomere length, in offspring who have high levels of care compared to those who have low level care. I am also interested in cost of effort of care afforded by their babysitters and how these affect rates of senescence.
I am interested in the molecular mechanisms of ageing.
I am interested in conflict and cooperation in social species, and how behavioural difference between individuals or groups might affect group success and influence the wider environment.

Beth Preston

PhD Student

Beth.Preston@exeter.ac.uk


I have broad research interests in conservation, animal behaviour and ecology. I am currently a PhD student at the University of Exeter, working as part of the Banded Mongoose Research Project under the supervision of Prof Michael Cant and Dr Shakti Lamba. I am interested in conflict and cooperation in social species, and how behavioural differences between individuals or groups might affect group success and influence the wider environment. My research investigates between group conflict, particularly in relation to aggressive inter-group encounters. Specifically I aim to investigate if inter-group conflict affects cooperation within the group, or causes within group tension and conflict. Inter group conflict is a suggested mechanism for generating cooperation within a group. A high level of between group conflict, or warfare, may be one of the reasons that humans are highly cooperative, even between unrelated individuals, and have large and complex societies. I want to investigate whether this might also be seen in social animals. The banded mongoose is a perfect study species as they engage in regular, violent, inter-group conflicts, and live in highly social, cooperative groups.

Beth Preston_IMG_0855_reduced3
dw

David Wells

PhD Student

d.a.wells@2016.ljmu.ac.uk


I am interested in the genetics underlying fitness. Does the whole genome contribute to fitness or is it a small number of very important loci? In most species inbreeding leads to a reduction in fitness, seemingly due to many small effects across the genome. This fitness reduction, termed inbreeding depression, often leads to inbreeding avoidance. However this is not always the case and there are cases where inbreeding preference is predicted.Banded mongooses often inbreed because of their social structure, this makes them perfect for studying the evolution of inbreeding. Inbreeding preference has rarely been studied in vertebrates but is a growing topic with implications on dispersal, mating and social systems. The results also carry over to conservation where inbreeding depression is a common concern.My aims are to understand why individual mongooses inbreed and what effects that has on fitness and social interactions. In my work I use genetic markers, pedigrees, animal models and Bayesian methods

I am interested in the genetics underlying fitness. Does the whole genome contribute to fitness or is it a small number of very important loci?
I am investigating the evolution of individual niche specialisation.

Catherine Sheppard

MRes Student

ces227@exeter.ac.uk


I am currently a masters by research student within the Banded Mongoose Research Team investigating the evolution of individual niche specialisation. Within populations, individuals often differ in their responses to environmental or social challenges, including their foraging behaviour. Banded mongoose show a wide dietary niche, however an important question lies in whether this generalist population is comprised of individual generalists, or individuals each exhibiting different but narrow foraging niches. I also aim to assess some of the causes and mechanisms behind this specialisation, such as age, sex, group size and early life experience.

Catherine Sheppard_cropped2
Emma-Inzani

Emma Inzani

MRes Student

eli203@exeter.ac.uk


My research interests lie in animal behavioural ecology and conservation; with a particular interest in understanding the evolution of cooperation. I am currently a masters by research student investigating female reproductive conflict and prenatal investment in banded mongooses with my supervisors Prof Michael Cant and Dr. Emma Vitikainen. As part of the Banded Mongoose Research Project, I am interested in how females adapt their prenatal investment in response to varying levels of competition to ultimately improve their individual reproductive success. Banded mongooses are a great study system to investigate female reproductive competition as multiple females within a group give birth synchronously to 4-5 litters throughout the year which has allowed the collection of a vast life-history database.
My research interests lie in animal behavioural ecology and conservation
I am currently investigating the hormonal effects of alloparental care in banded mongoose pups

Dave Seager

MRes Student

ds485@exeter.ac.uk


My research interests lie in animal behavioural ecology and endocrinology; with a particular interest in understanding the hormonal mechanisms and physiological costs of social behaviour. I am currently a masters by research student investigating the hormonal effects of alloparental care in banded mongoose pups with my supervisor Prof Michael Cant. As part of the Banded Mongoose Research Project, I analyse biological samples collected at the field site and try to link hormone levels with behavioural and life history traits. I am trying to investigate the long term fitness and physiological impacts of alloparental care and how this affects competition between the pups within a litter. As cooperative breeders banded mongooses are a great study system to investigate the physiological and behavioural effects of alloparental care and levels of offspring competition using the extensive long term data set and bank of biological samples collected over many years by our researchers in the field.
dave