Leah Williams (PhD Student)
e-mail: L.J.Williams [at] 2010.ljmu.ac.uk
Leah finished her PhD in 2013. She is now working for the RSPB and this page is no longer updated. 

Research Overview
‘Personality’ describes the observation that animals differ consistently in their behaviour across time and context. However, little is known about how an individual’s physical characteristics relate to personality. In social contexts, we also know that certain individuals can consistently emerge as ‘leaders’, where their behaviour results in other members of the group following their actions. However, the relationship between leadership, personality traits and physical characteristics is still poorly understood. The aim of my PhD is to increase the understanding of these relationships by experimentally investigating the personality traits and leadership behaviour of the Gouldian finch (Erythrura gouldiae).

2010-2013: PhD student. School of Natural Sciences and Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University. PhD studying "Leadership behaviour in relation to personality traits in social birds". Supervised by Claudia Mettke-Hofmann, Andrew King & Dave Wilkinson.


2010-2013: Affiliated PhD student. SHOAL Group, College of Science, Swansea University, and Evolutionary Ecology Group, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge.


2008-2009: MRes in Biodiversity and Conservation. Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Leeds (with Merit). Research project 1: "The effects of haemosporidian parasites on the immune response and flocking behaviour of the yellowhammer, Emberiza citrinella". Supervised by Jenny Dunn & Simon Goodman. Research project 2: "Understory primary forest birds in selectively logged forest in Borneo: The influence of habitat structure". Supervised by Dr Keith Hamer.


2003-2006: BSc. (Hons) in Zoology with Evolutionary Psychology (1st class). School of Biological Sciences, University of Liverpool. Research Project: "A Comparison of play behaviour in lion-tailed (Macaca silenus) and Sulawesi crested black macaques (Macaca nigra)". Supervised by Louise Barrett & Suzanne Shultz.


Relevant Experience


2009: Field Assistant, Bat Ecology. Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Leeds. Assistant to Postdoctoral researcher conducting bat mist-netting surveys in the UK and Italy.


2006-2008: People Engagement Officer, RSPB, Conwy reserve. Controlling visitor operations, organising events, publicity, training of staff and volunteers, line manager for recruitment of assistants and volunteers.


Grants & Awards

  • (2012) Postgraduate Conference Travel Fund for travel to the European Conference on Behavioural Biology 2012 after a successful application process (£300)
  • (2011) Faculty of Science LJMU Postgraduate Research Seminar Day second prize oral presentation (£500)
  • (2010) PhD Studentship Liverpool John Moores University, Natural Sciences and Psychology, HEFCE Postgraduate Research Studentship
  • (2009) North England Zoological Society (NEZS) MRes research project grant (£1,000)
  • (2008) NERC Scholarship for completion of MRes (£5,000)


  • (2012) VIth European Conference on Behavioural Biology, Essen, Germany (Talk).
  • (2012) Faculty of Science Postgraduate Research Seminar Day, LJMU, UK (Poster & Student Chair).
  • (2012) Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool, UK (Invited Talk).
  • (2011) Behavior 2011, Indiana University, Bloomington, USA (Poster).
  • (2011) Royal Veterinary College, University of London, UK (Invited Talk).
  • (2011) Evolutionary Ecology Group, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge (Invited talk).



Williams, L. J., King, A. J. & Mettke-Hofman, C. (2012) Colourful characters: Head colour reflects personality in a social bird, the Gouldian finch (Erythrura gouldiae). Animal Behaviour 84: 159-165. [BBC Nature] [Planet Earth] [Daily Mail] [Cosmos Magazine] [Financial Times]


Sueur, C. King, A. J., Conradt, L., Kerth, G., Lusseau, D., Mettke-Hoffmann, C., Schaffner, C.M., Williams, L. J., Zinner, D., Aureli, F. (2011) Collective decision-making and fission-fusion dynamics: a conceptual framework. Oikos 120: 1608-1617.