Dr Tony Fulford

Biography & Research

Tanmay Toucan

On the Zambezi River, Zambia, October 2014.

My background is in medical research in Africa.  I work for 14 years as statistician in the Department of Pathology in Cambridge on the immunology and epidemiology Schistosomiasis in Kenya and Uganda, a joint project with the Kenyan Medical Research Institute and the Departments of Health in Kenya and Uganda.  The chronic nature of this infection allows a window on the development of the immune response over a timespan of decades: we demonstrated that the effective TH2 (IgE) immune response appears to be host-age dependent and does not develop until after puberty.

After that I worked for 15 years in nutrition research with the Medical Research Council’s International Nutrition Group.  The wide-ranging research of this group was largely conducted at a field station at Keneba in the Gambia.  Particular focuses were the interactions between iron, anaemia and infection, fetal and infant growth and early (nutritional) determinants of adult disease.  The analysis of longitudinal growth and seasonality (and other cyclic) data, genetic and epigenetic association analysis.

In both posts I provided statistical and data management support to the research team.  In Keneba I directed the development of a demographic surveillance system, the computerisation of the clinic and a DNA/biobank, all of which were integrated with one another and with data generated by the numerous research projects (ref).

I joined the Department of Zoology as an academic visitor from Oct 2014.  Here I have been engaged in a number of projects including analysis of Major Colebrook-Robjent’s egg collection data (with Claire Spottiswoode), modelling overheating of ground-nesting birds’ eggs exposed to the intense tropical sun of Zambia (with Nick Horrocks), maintaining the cohort of PIT-tagged Great Tits in Madingley Wood and analysis of data from these and other projects (with Hannah Rowland) and changes in women’s attraction and attractiveness associated with hormonal changes due to the menstrual cycle or hormonal contraception use (Rob Burriss and Hannah Rowland).

My publications can be found on my Google Scholar page where (as of Oct 2015) my lifetime H-index is given as 42 (28 since 2010).

My other interests include bird ringing and wildlife sound recording.

Publications

Dixit, T., English, S. & Lukas, D. (2017), The relationship between egg size and helper number in cooperative breeders: a meta-analysis across species. PeerJ 5:e4028; DOI 10.7717/peerj.4028. Read on journal website [Open Access]

News

Dr Gabriel Jamie awarded a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship

Dr Gabriel Jamie has been awarded a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship based at University of Cambridge. For the fellowship Gabriel will build on his previous work on brood parasitism and the evolution of polymorphisms to understand the incredible diversity of egg...

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New paper published on Weber’s Law and mimicry

Our paper ‘Why and how to apply Weber’s Law to coevolution and mimicry’ has been published in the journal Evolution. This perspectives paper, written by Tanmay Dixit, Eleanor Caves, Claire Spottiswoode, and Nicholas Horrocks, argues that Weber’s Law of proportional processing can lead to otherwise counterintuitive predictions about the evolutionary trajectories of mimicry systems.  Weber’s Law states that when the magnitude of a stimulus is large, it is more difficult to discriminate a change or difference from that stimulus. In other words, relative differences are more salient than absolute differences. We show that Weber’s Law could have implications for mimicry: when stimulus magnitudes are high, it should be more difficult to discriminate a model from a mimic. This leads to testable predictions about evolutionary trajectories of models and mimics. We also present a framework for testing Weber’s Law and its implications for coevolution. 

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New paper on evolution of egg signatures

Our paper “Hosts elevate either within-clutch consistency or between-clutch distinctiveness of egg phenotypes in defence against brood parasites” has just been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B. In this study, led by Eleanor Caves, we asked how host eggs evolve adaptations that allow them better to discriminate their own eggs from parasitic eggs. Theoretically, hosts can generate their own individually-distinctive egg ‘signatures’ by laying eggs that appear similar to one another (consistency) but look very different from other individuals’ eggs (distinctiveness). In this new study, we show that host species of two African brood parasites deploy either consistency or distinctiveness, but not both, as defences, and achieve distinctiveness by combining egg colours and patterns in unpredictable combinations.

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Mairenn Attwood awarded Cambridge teaching prize

Congratulations to Mairenn Attwood for being awarded the Janet Moore Prize for teaching in the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge, for her outstanding tutorial supervision of final-year undergraduate students, who praised her breadth and depth of knowledge, enthusiasm, and friendliness.  Mairenn follows in the footsteps of Tanmay Dixit who was awarded the Janet Moore Prize in 2020. Well done both for inspiring the next generation of behavioural ecologists!

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