Biography & Research
Mairenn is a PhD student at the University of Cambridge, exploring the co-evolutionary arms race between hosts and brood parasites in Zambia. She remains driven by the same curiosity that spurred her interest in science from a young age (despite early set-backs including a failed experiment to grow a haribo tree).
Graduating in Natural Sciences in 2019, her undergraduate degree focussed her fascination with behavioural ecology, conservation and evolution. She worked on various projects, including the impact of parasitic plants on invasive Oxalis, the function of buccal oscillations in túngara frogs, and interactions between pollen beetles and rock roses. She was also an intern with the Insect Ecology group in Cambridge, examining invertebrate diversity across ancient and recently planted woodland. In her final year project, she investigated behavioural responses to kleptoparasitism risk in sticklebacks, supervised by Professor Nick Davies. Across these diverse taxa, interactions between individuals and species emerged as a central research interest.
Mairenn joined the Zambian team for her MPhil, supervised by Prof. Claire Spottiswoode, where she worked with African cuckoos (Cuculus gularis) and their fork-tailed drongo hosts (Dicrurus adsimilis). The project investigated the trade-offs involved when parasites target aggressive hosts – focussing on front-line defences as well as nest survival rates. It also explored evidence for edge effects on these species at the study site, which is a matrix of farmland and miombo woodland.
Mairenn is continuing to work with drongos and African cuckoos for the PhD, broadening her research to understand drongos’ contradictory roles as both manipulators and manipulated. This project proposes to tackle questions of recognition, cognition and evolutionary pressures on drongos, situating their arms race within a wider ecological context.
Mairenn also enjoys scientific communication, engaging in outreach and co-directing content at Climate Science (an app producing resources for teenagers about climate change).