Staff profile

Isabelle Winder



Location: Memorial Building F25B

Phone: 388859

Research interests

I am broadly interested in the co-evolutionary ecology of the primates (including humans and their ancestors). I have worked particularly on three themes:

1. Interactions between landscape, ecosystem and organism in driving evolutionary change and the emergence of complex anatomies and behaviours. This work has had a particular focus on hominins, and on the complex ways in which our ancestors might have interacted with the heterogeneous, dynamic environments in which they lived. In 2013, we produced the new scrambler man hypothesis of human evolution, which proposes that these landscapes might be key to understanding our history.

2. The patterns and processes of evolutionary change itself, and especially the evidence for and potential impact of ideas linked to the proposed ‘Extended Synthesis’ of evolutionary theory. Such a synthesis would supplement the current Modern Synthesis view and focus more attention on non-adaptive or complex processes, like reticulate evolution (which is actually quite common), epigenetic change and gene-culture co-evolution. In 2015, we published a new vulnerable ape hypothesis which suggests that non-adaptive, bottleneck-driven rapid evolutionary change might be responsible for some key human features like straight feet and reduced dentition.

3. The significance of agency and complexity in biological systems. It seems to me obvious that agency (the capacity to make choices as to how to act) allows many species of mammal, and particularly primates, to influence their own environments and evolving ecologies. It is also evident that biological systems are highly complex, and that no one component can be understood entirely in isolation. Whole systems may be much more unwieldy, but they are also much more than the sums of their parts. I am keen to explore how this complexity manifests itself in biology, and how it impacts upon our understanding.


    Look out for me on:
  • ONS-1001: Introductory Research Skills
  • BSX-2021: BioScience Skills
  • BSX-3150: Life in a Changing Climate

Career history

  • 2016-Present: Lecturer, Bangor University
  • 2012-2015: ERC Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of York
  • 2009-2012: PhD, University of York
  • 2008-2009: MSc Palaeoanthropology, University of Sheffield
  • 2005-2008: BSc Geography, University of Sheffield
  • I am also an Honorary Research Associate of the Department of Musculoskeletal Biology, University of Liverpool (2014-2017) and the Department of Archaeology, University of York (2015-2018).