Dr Davina Hill

Quantitative Animal Scientist
Integrative Animal Sciences
Animal & Veterinary Sciences

Research interests 

I am an ecologist with broad research interests spanning pure (life history strategies, co-operation, hormonal control of behaviour) and applied (adaptation to climate change, improving the efficiency of food production, conservation of biodiversity) aspects of biology.

My interests converge around the theme of how animals cope with environmental change. My work at SRUC aims to help farming adapt to climate change by improving our understanding of animals’ responses to weather-related stressors. This work has generated media interest. Presently I am investigating how environmental factors drive feeding decisions, and the extent to which genetics play a role. By improving our understanding of animals' responses we can develop tools to minimise declines in productivity while improving welfare, feed efficiency and/or sustainability. While dairy cows are the focus of my work at SRUC, I am also investigating ways to breed more efficient beef cattle and have carried out research consultancy for the poultry industry.

I have a long-standing interest in life history strategies, which I have explored using field studies, behavioural experiments and/or analysis of long-term demographic data. I am currently researching the genetic and environmental factors influencing life history decisions in dairy cows. I previously investigated social and/or reproductive conflicts in African striped mice (Alternative Female Reproductive Tactics, South African National Research Foundation Freestanding Fellowship, University of the Witwatersrand), and between pairs of zebra finches (Sexual Conflict during Incubation, NERC-funded PhD, University of Glasgow).

Selected research projects

  • Future-proofing our breeding goals – Breeding for climate resilience in UK dairy systems, SRUC
    Jointly funded by BBSRC and NERC (SARIC, Sustainable Agriculture Research & Innovation Club grant to Prof. Eileen Wall, Prof. Dominic Moran  and DLH). My role is to identify phenotypic indicators of resilience to the stresses associated with a changing climate and to develop tools to facilitate genetic improvements in dairy cows.
  • Improving the sustainability and competitive position of the UK beef industry through selective breeding, SRUC
    DEFRA funded project working with Prof. Eileen Wall, Prof. Richard Dewhurst and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board  (AHDB).
  • Improvement of livestock: Incorporating resilience into Scottish breeding goals, SRUC
    Scottish Government Rural Affairs and the Environment Portfolio Strategic Research Programme 2016-2021 Work Package 2.3.1.
  • Developing a ‘low carbon rural economy’: Socio-economic and Interdisciplinary Research Capacity Building, SRUC
    Scottish Government Rural Affairs and the Environment Portfolio Strategic Research Programme 2011-2016 Work Package 2.3.1.
  • Alternative reproductive tactics in female African striped mice, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
    Funded by a National Research Foundation Freestanding Fellowship, University Research Committee Fellowship and a Swiss-South African Joint Research Programme Faculty Exchange grant to DLH. I showed that female striped mice that go on use a solitary breeding tactic differ in body mass and hormone profiles from those that subsequently breed in groups.

Teaching

I developed and lead the annual British Society for Animal Science (BSAS) R and Statistics Workshop, which takes place at the University of Leeds (2013 to present). I am also a guest lecturer on the MSc Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law course at the University of Glasgow.

I have supervised five Honours projects in animal behaviour or behavioural ecology.

As a Research Fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand I co-ordinated the postgraduate-level ‘Statistics using R’ course, and lectured on the Yr. 3 ‘Animal Behaviour’ and Yr. 2 ‘Reproductive Biology’ modules.

Selected publications

  • Hill, D. L., Pillay, N. and Schradin, C. (2015) Alternative reproductive tactics in female striped mice: heavier females are more likely to breed solitary than communally, Journal of Animal Ecology  84 (6), 1497-1508
  • Hill, D. L., Pillay, N. and Schradin, C. (2015) Alternative reproductive tactics in female striped mice: solitary breeders have lower corticosterone levels than communal breeders, Hormones and behavior , 71: 1-9
  • Hill, D. L. and Wall, E. (2015) Dairy cattle in a temperate climate: the effects of weather on milk yield and composition depend on management, Animal , 9: 138-149
  • Hill, D.L., Lindström, J., McCafferty, D. & Nager, R.G. (2014 ) Female but not male zebra finches adjust heat output in response to increased incubation demand, Journal of Experimental Biology, 217: 1326-1332
  • Hill, D.L., Lindström, J. & Nager, R.G. (2011) Carry-over effects of male extra-pair copulation opportunity on biparental effort in zebra finches, Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology , 65: 2049-2059  

See all of Dr Davina Hill's publications.   

Dr Davina Hill

Quantitative Animal Scientist

Address: Animal & Veterinary Sciences, SRUC, Roslin Institute Building, Easter Bush, Midlothian EH25 9RG

Telephone: 0131 651 9305

E-mail: davina.hill@sruc.ac.uk