Robert L. Thomson
​O​n Tswalu Kalahari with a brood of African Pygmy Falcons

Interplay of positive and negative interactions in animal communities

I am broadly interested in questions within behavioural and evolutionary ecology, with an emphasis on avian systems. My main research focusses on both positive and negative interactions within communities relative to traditional enemies: competitors, predators and brood parasites, and how these impact community structure. I investigate the outcome of these interactions relative to the decision making of individuals stemming from the gathering of social information. My framework for the decision making of individuals frequently investigates the use of cues stemming from individuals of other species, and how these heterospecifics directly or indirectly impact adaptive decision making.

I generally use field experiments with novel manipulations of stresses and cues. My research uses study systems that are characterized by either hosting unique interactions between species or by being suitable for field manipulations. Questions are currently focused within 3 systems:

  • In the Kalahari I investigate Sociable weaver nests as a resource to pygmy falcons and other species, and investigate how this keystone resource may ameliorate stress in an increasingly harsh environment.
  • In northern Finland I investigate brood parasitism in the cuckoo - redstart system, focusing on decision making of both hosts and parasites during the breeding season; and novel mechanisms by which hosts may avoid parasites. 
  • Throughout Finland, I use the nest box breeding species to perform field experiments that investigate social information gathering and prospecting, and the consequences of conspecific and heterospecific neighbours.
I also work on a range of issues such as avian breeding systems, migration, physiology and conservation biology.

For more information, please follow my links in the panel on the right-hand side.

Contact information

Section of Ecology
Department of Biology
University of Turku
FI-20014 Turku
tel: +358 2 333 8863
Email: robtho[at]
Office address:
University Hill
LT1, 2nd floor
Room 242

 Robert L. Thomson


 VERG links