Duncan Jackson, MBiolSci.

PhD Student, University of Sheffield


Originally from Chorley in Lancashire, I braved the Yorkshire border to study for my MBiolSci. Zoology at the University of Sheffield in 2011, and have remained here ever since. During my undergraduate degree, my interest in natural history developed into a full blown passion for the natural world. One particular fascination flourished over my studies; how and why the bizarre animals that live on planet Earth have evolved? Naturally, I have an interest in why animals perform extraordinary behaviours (as most Zoologists do!), but I am also curious about how biologically synthesised materials (e.g. spider’s silk and hagfish slime) are adapted to specific evolutionary pressures, particularly because increased knowledge of this aspect of the natural world can improve the functionality of man-made materials through biomimetics.


Current project (2016 – 2019)

The adaptive significance of avian eggshell architecture.

PhD at the University of Sheffield supervised by Professor Tim Birkhead and Dr Nicola Hemmings, funded by a Faculty of Science Studentship.

This multi-disciplinary project aims to broaden our understanding of the evolutionary importance of a bird’s eggshell, particularly in species that incubate their eggs in extreme environments.


Previous projects and roles

During my undergraduate degree I worked on a range of projects, including:

The adaptive significance of red leaves in tropical rainforests. 2013. Tropical ecology field course project in Danum Valley, Malaysian Borneo.

The proximate and ultimate causes of Grey Squirrel’s (Sciurus carolinensis) caching behaviour. 2013. Third year project.

Be a Biology Student for the Day. 2014. Undergraduate ambassador scheme project. This teaching project involved lecturing, creating and leading a lab practical and leading a museum based activity of convergent and divergent evolution, as well as critically analysing my own teaching and writing a detailed report on the topics covered during my teaching (animal communication and osmoregulation in cells, plants and Paramecium) that could act as a future teaching aid.

The adaptive significance of the Common Guillemot’s (Uria aalge) eggshell. 2014-2015. Fourth year (masters) project.

After graduating in 2015, I worked as a research assistant in the TRB lab and also as a museum assistant in the Alfred Denny Zoological museum. Alongside normal lab and museum curatorial duties, this role included creating an online information guide visitors could access to enhance their visitor experience. In 2016, I began working as a research technician in the TRB lab until starting my PhD in September. During this time, I spent two weeks on Skomer Island in Wales assisting with a long-term Guillemot study, specifically monitoring the type of fish adult Guillemots were feeding to their chicks, as well as helping out with other research on the island.



During my first year at university, I was given the fantastic opportunity – by Professor Birkhead – to volunteer in the Alfred Denny Museum of Zoology to help give it a new lease of life so that the public, as well as students, could enjoy looking around the marvellous museum at the curious specimens it contains. Since then, I have relished communicating science to the public on museum tours and by volunteering at numerous outreach events, including the most exciting APS event of the year, the annual University of Sheffield’s Christmas lecture. I have also lead STEM discover events and visited schools to provide hands-on workshops to try to get kids (re-)invigorated about Science. In 2016, I was part of a small team (along with other lab members, Dr Nicola Hemmings and Jamie Thompson) who, in collaboration with Maltby Academy, exhibited “The Secret Life of Birds” at the Royal Society’s Summer Science exhibition.



Birkhead, T. R., Thompson, J. E., Jackson, D., & Biggins, J. D. (2017). The point of a Guillemot’s egg. Ibis, 159(2), 255-265.



The microscopic world of birds’ eggs. Invited speaker: Skeletal.AL lab symposium (December 2015).


About me:

In my free time, I enjoy volunteering and have previously worked at Birmingham Wildlife and Conservation Park as a voluntary animal care assistant and volunteered at the RSPB seabird centre on Rathlin island. Whenever possible, I enjoy getting out into the countryside to observe wildlife, walk up big hills and mountains, run and pursue my other main passion; photography. If you’d like to see some of my photos, please visit my website: