Kirsty MacLeod is a behavioural and evolutionary ecologist with broad interests in maternal investment, reproductive systems, stress physiology, and sociality. She is fascinated by how individuals interact with one another and their environment, how those interactions affect physiology and behaviour, and how this contributes to evolution and shapes vertebrate communities. You can read more about Kirsty’s work at!

1 Are you an early bird or night owl?

Early bird

2 Are you pro- or anti-pun?


3 Do you have any pets?


4 Do you have any science-themed home decor?

I make biology-themed linoleum prints! So, lots of my own science-inspired artwork

5 Do you prefer cooking or baking?


6 Do you prefer sweet or savory?


7 Do you speak any other languages?

A smidge of Afrikaans (I was born in South Africa!)

8 If you could switch professions, what would you do?


9 If you could switch science fields, what field would you want to work in?

I can’t imagine switching but I am fascinated by anthropology

10 If you got a plane ticket right now, where would it go?

I just returned from a short trip to Colorado and honestly I’d go right back

11 If you had one superpower, what would it be?


12 Is there anything you strongly recommend we watch and/or read and/or listen to?

I just saw “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” and it blew my mind. Listen to the podcast “This Land”, about the history and current politics of Oklahoma tribal land rights (fascinating). And just read SOMETHING. Reading for pleasure is my greatest pleasure!

13 It’s your day off. What do you want to do?

Sleep until 10, have a slow breakfast with my boyfriend and a book, go for a hike or bike ride in the woods, hit a brewery on the way home, and spend the evening sketching, cooking, and watching an episode of an Anthony Bourdain show.

14 What are three things you can’t live without?

Coffee, a notebook, and a good pen

15 What beverage gives you life?

Evil Genius’ “Trust the Process” IPA

16 What book did you read in school that positively shaped you?

I grew up on a small Scottish island. “Sunset Song” by Lewis Grassic Gibbon felt like the first novel I read in which a young woman was strong, independent, had desires and ambition – and was shaped but not limited by her rural background

17 What did you want to be be when you grew up?

A ranger in a national park

18 What drives you and keeps you going?

The thrill of unravelling the answers to questions in data and the literature. It’s a genuine rush!

19 What got you excited in science?

Spending time looking for wildlife on an uncle’s farm in South Africa

20 What excites you about science now?

That I’m still learning – I hope I never stop!

21 What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

Bachelor in Paradise and bad pop music

22 What is a secret talent of yours?

I’m a good singer

23 What is your favorite game?


24 What is the last book you read?

“War on Peace” by Ronan Farrow. I’m a political junkie.

25 What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve received?

Comparison is the thief of joy.

26 What is something you’ve always wanted to try but you’ve been too scared to do?

Skateboard. I have abysmal balance.

27 What is the best advice for your 18 year old self?

Don’t worry so much about what people think. Oh and start moisturising pls

28 What is the best way to de-stress?

Do something creative. Working on an art project is the only time I truly lose track of time.

29 What is the last thing you watched?

Hobbs & Shaw = 😂

30 What is the weirdest thing you’ve had in your bag?

Owl pellets

31 What is your favorite animal?


32 What is your favorite book?

An impossible question, but “American Pastoral” by Philip Roth is one I re-read

33 What is your favorite comfort food?

My boyfriend Ben’s spaghetti bolognese. It contains at least three types of meat and is so thick and delicious if you swung the pot upside down it probably wouldn’t fall out.

34 What is your favorite day of the year?

Christmas Eve

35 What is your favorite plant?

Any succulent

36 What is your favorite science fact?

Male barnacles have the largest penis proportional to body size in the animal kingdom – up to 50 times the length of the barnacles’ body!

37 What is your favorite season?


38 What is your favorite smell?

Fresh bread

39 What is your favorite sound?

Wind in leaves

40 What is your favorite thing about yourself?

I can make people laugh.

41 What is your favorite word (in any language)?

Gatvol is a particularly vivid Afrikaans word (it translates literally as “hole full”, or in slang, “ass full”) meaning fed up, or over something

42 What is your proudest moment?

Calling my parents to tell them I’d been given the fellowship I applied for

43 What kind of tree would you be?

A pine

44 What’s the best thing about where you live?

Being able to be with my boyfriend after a few years of long-distance.

45 Tell us something we probably don’t know.

Some lizards live in family groups! Follow me on Twitter to find out how that influences how stress is experienced, and how effects of stress pass between generations.

46 Who would you like to see 46 Questions interview next?

My old Penn State labmate and great friend Cam Venable, @CPVDoesScience. We spent a lot of time in the field together and are very in sync. He’ll make you laugh (and think).