Dr Marion Germain

School of Biosciences

Teaching Associate

M Germain
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Dr Marion Germain
School of Biosciences
Alfred Denny Building
Western Bank
S10 2TN

• Teaching Associate, University of Sheffield (2021-present)
• Post-doctoral Research Associate, University of Sheffield (2018-2021)
• Post-doctoral Research Associate, University of Quebec in Montreal (Canada) (2017-2018)
• Teaching Associate, University of Lyon II (France) (2014-2016)
• PhD in Behavioural Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Lyon I (France) and University of Uppsala (Sweden) (2010-2014)
• MSc in Biostatistics and Modelling, University of Toulouse III (France) (2010)
• MSc in Biodiversity Ecology and Evolution, University of Toulouse III (France) (2009)


  • Halliwell, C., Beckerman, A.P., Biddiscombe, S.J., Germain, M. and Hatchwell, B.J., 2023. Coordination of care is facilitated by delayed feeding and collective arrivals in the long-tailed tit. Animal Behaviour, 201, pp.23-44.
  • Tamin, T., Morinay, J., Germain, M., Récapet, C. and Doligez, B., 2023. Behavioural syndrome between boldness and aggressiveness and link with reproductive success in a wild bird population. Animal Behaviour, 197, pp.27-41.
  • Halliwell, C., Beckerman, A.P., Germain, M., Patrick, S.C., Leedale, A.E. and Hatchwell, B.J., 2022. Coordination of care by breeders and helpers in the cooperatively breeding long-tailed tit. Behavioral Ecology, 33(4), pp.844-858.
  • Germain, M., Kneeshaw, D., De Grandpré, L., Desrochers, M., James, P.M., Vepakomma, U., Poulin, J.F. and Villard, M.A., 2021. Insectivorous songbirds as early indicators of future defoliation by spruce budworm. Landscape Ecology, 36(10), pp.3013-3027.
  • Morinay, J., Forsman, J.T., Germain, M. and Doligez, B., 2020. Behavioural traits modulate the use of heterospecific social information for nest site selection: experimental evidence from a wild bird population. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 287(1925), p.20200265.
  • Germain, M., Pärt, T., Gustafsson, L. and Doligez, B., 2017. Natal dispersers pay a lifetime cost to increased reproductive effort in a wild bird population. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 284(1851), p.20162445.
  • Germain, M., Pärt, T. and Doligez, B., 2017. Lower settlement following a forced displacement experiment: nonbreeding as a dispersal cost in a wild bird?. Animal Behaviour, 133, pp.109-121.
  • Germain, M., Blanchet, S., Loyau, A. and Danchin, É., 2016. Mate-choice copying in Drosophila melanogaster: impact of demonstration conditions and male–male competition. Behavioural processes, 125, pp.76-84.
Research interests

My research interests revolve around behavioural ecology. I have worked on topics such as mate choice and mate choice copying. But since my PhD, I focused on understanding a specific behaviour: dispersal.

Understanding the causes and consequences of dispersal
Dispersal, a key life history trait, involves moving from a natal site to a breeding location or between consecutive breeding sites. While offering benefits like inbreeding avoidance, it is costly. Dispersers leave familiar environments for the unfamiliar, risking predation and challenges of finding resources and suitable breeding grounds. Less obvious are the trade-offs; time and energy spent moving and looking for a breeding habitat means less for other essential activities such as foraging and seeking mates.
Despite costs, dispersal is widespread across taxa. Yet, the interplay of costs and benefits and their fitness consequences are poorly understood, limiting our grasp of the evolution of dispersal.
My PhD aimed to dissect these costs, benefits and resulting fitness consequences. I studied a wild population of collared flycatchers, a small passerine bird, in Sweden. By analysing long-term data and conducting experiments, I gained insight into the costs and benefits tied to dispersal. We revealed that dispersal can not only affect individuals immediately but have lifetime consequences. Remarkably, notable costs occur even before settling for reproduction, an often-overlooked aspect. For those overcoming these challenges, dispersal seemed adaptive.
Since my PhD, my research interests evolved while maintaining a central focus on unravelling dispersal strategies by delving into their causes. Habitat selection is crucial, but the cues guiding dispersers’ choice are unclear. By combining long-term data and fieldwork on a population of long-tailed tit just outside Sheffield, we showed that dispersers move towards attractive habitats, indicating reliance on environmental cues to predict breeding habitat quality.

Behavioural and applied ecology: how to combine both?
Using my background in behavioural and avian ecology to applied ecology. The spruce budworm is a defoliating insect native to North America causing large-scale outbreaks with associated important forest mortality. Early detection of outbreak hotspots has proven difficult. I investigated whether animal sentinels, specifically insectivorous bird species, could be used to monitor and detect increases in spruce budworm populations. We found that all three species investigated responded but one species responded three to four years before the insect population could be detected by current monitoring methods. Early detection is a critical step in the management of spruce budworm outbreaks and bird populations could be used to identify future epicentres of spruce budworm outbreaks.