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Matthew Low

Matthew Low
I am an ecologist and a veterinarian with a special interest in disease ecology and the factors regulating animal populations. I study this by using advanced statistical modelling approaches to identify long-term trends, disease patterns and the processes driving population changes. I also work closely with students to design courses that inspire them and provide the skills they need to be successful scientists and life-science professionals


My research background is diverse and spans veterinary epidemiology, population ecology, behavioural ecology, life-history evolution and statistical methods. For this, much of my research has been based on long-term monitored population systems with detailed individual-level data (e.g. stitchbirds, domestic cats, penguins, wolverine, honeybees, snow leopards and house crickets).

Most of my research can be broadly categorised into: (1) the factors regulating the growth and structure of animal populations, and (2) using advanced statistical methods to understand causality, data collection biases and hidden ecological processes. Together, these complementary research fields enable me to work on a number of exciting epidemiological questions in wild and domestic species, including:

- Using state-space reconstruction to determine the causal drivers of Puumala orthohantavirus (PUUV) infection in bank voles and people

- Population patterns of feline hip dysplasia in domestic cats: its heritability, genetic correlations with body type and response to selective breeding

- Impacts of viral diseases on survival and fecundity in house crickets reared for the insects-as-food industry: can disease management improve sustainability?

- The effect of observer bias in snow leopard monitoring and the development of a disease monitoring network in High Asia

- Accounting for detection and observer bias in Malarial mosquito surveys

- The impact of disease and hive management on honey bee health 

- Long-term trends of seabirds on the Great Barrier Reef: patterns and causes

- The impact of forestry management on biodiversity and simple solutions to maintain biodiversity in multiple taxa 


Because of the uncertainties inherent in these systems and data collection processes, one of the overriding goals in my work is to properly account for this uncertainty and to provide accurate probabilistic measures of risk or treatment effects. For this I generally use a Bayesian Hierarchical modelling approach. This provides greater flexibility in modelling the factors of interest while producing probabilistic statements on the predictions from the model. This is ideal for communicating precise estimates of uncertainty to the scientific and non-scientific community. I also teach these methods to post-graduate students.


In my teaching I work closely with the students to deliver courses that are not only relevant and applicable to their interests and skills development, but also create a working atmosphere that is co-operative and enjoyable. Because different students have different needs, the structure of my courses allows for students to work to their own capacity and gives them the support they need to ultimately succeed.

Postgraduate education

I have developed two PhD level courses that I teach each year through the SLU research schools. These courses were designed to fill a gap in the teaching of modern statistical programming and modelling skills to post-graduate researchers

Programming in R

This 1-week intensive course teaches our young researchers how to use R to fit their specific research questions by teaching R as a language. This gives them the programming flexibility they need to work in this modern statistical platform.

Bayesian Hierarchical Modelling (for beginners and beyond)

This 2-week intensive course takes students from understanding the fundamentals of Bayesian methods right through to being able to implement Hierarchical models of any design they choose. The emphasis is teaching students flexible methods to handle the questions they want to ask of their data.

Undergraduate education

Because of my background in veterinary science, domestic animal behaviour & welfare, ecology and evolution, I also have developed and teach a cross-disciplinary undergraduate course for students studying animal science and ecology : 

Principles of Zoology, Evolution and the Natural History of Domestic Animals

In this course I focus on key aspects of the ecology and evolution of companion and common farm animals that are important for people working in domestic animal science fields, including veterinarians and animal technicians. The course is based around a general and intuitive understanding of these principles with a clear demonstration of their practical application.

Mentoring younger researchers

I also work with young researchers in Sweden, Africa and Nepal to help them develop their skills in scientific writing, applying for grant funding and statistical analyses.


I collaborate with many research groups within the university, and researchers, government stakeholders and NGOs from all over the world. These include the honeybee disease research group, the small mammal zoonoses research group and the sustainable insects-as-food research group at SLU. Internationally I work with the Snow Leopard Trust in Mongolia & India, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in Australia, Makarere University in Uganda, the National Trust for Nature Conservation in Nepal, the Depatment of Conservation in New Zealand and the Australian Antarctic Division in Australia & Antarctica.


My undergraduate and professional background is in veterinary science and applied animal behaviour (1988-1998 University of Queensland & Kessels Rd Veterinary Hospital). I worked in clinical veterinary practice for 5 years where I developed my skills in avian and wildlife medicine, applied animal behaviour therapy and small animal internal medicine.

From 1999-2004 I worked as a field biologist, veterinary consultant and PhD researcher in New Zealand on endangered bird species (Department of Conservation & Massey University). During ths time I helped develop national protocols for disease management for a number of species conservation programmes (stitchbird and kakapo).

From 2005-2007 I worked in Antarctica as a researcher testing new methods for surveying Adelie penguins (Australian Antarctic Division) as part of an international monitoring effort examining the impact of fishing in the Southern Ocean.

Since 2007 I have been working as a researcher at SLU on various projects related to population ecology, epidemiology and statistical methodology 


I work with many MSc and PhD students across departments and faculties in providing support for their development in key skills areas: writing and structuring manuscripts, statistics and R programming. In an official capactity I have supervised 5 PhD students to completion.

Selected publications

Latest Publications (2020)…

Woodworth B, Fuller R, Hemson G, McDogall A, Congdon B, Low M. 2020. Trends in seabird breeding populations across the Great Barrier Reef. Conservation Biology,

Paquet M, Arlt D, Knape J, Low M, Forslund P, Pärt T. 2020. Why we should care about movements: using spatially explicit integrated population models to assess habitat source-sink dynamics. Journal of Animal Ecology,

Kanuch P, Kiehl B, Cassel-Lundhagen A, Laugen AT, Low M, Berggren Å. 2020. Gene flow relates to evolutionary divergence among populations at the range margin. PeerJ, in press.

Klein J, Thor G, Low M, Sjögren J, Lindberg E, Eggers S. 2020. What is good for birds is not always good for lichens: interactions between forest structure and species richness in managed boreal forests. Forest Ecology & Management. 473: 118327

Josefsson J, Hiron M, Arlt D, Auffret AG, Berg Å, Chevalier M, Glimskär A, Hartman G, Kecergyte I, Klein J, Knape J, Laugen AT, Low M, Parquet M, Pasanen-Mortensen M, Rosin ZM, Rubene D, Zmihorski M, Pärt T. 2020 Improving scientific rigour in conservation evaluations and a plea deal for transparency on potential biases. Conservation Letters. 

Aronsson M, Åkesson M, Low M, Persson J, Andren H. 2020. Resource dispersion and relatedness interact to explain space use in a solitary predator. Oikos. doi: 10.1111/oik.07258

Johansson Ö, Samelius G, Wikberg E, Chapron G, Mishra C, Low M. 2020. Identification errors in camera-trap studies result in systematic population overestimation. Scientific Reports. 10: 6393

Adhikari B, Odden M, Adhikari B, Panthi S, Lopez-Bao JV, Low M. 2020. Livestock husbandry practices and herd composition influence leopard-human conflict in Pokhara Valley, Nepal. Human Dimensions of Wildlife. 25: 62-69


Publications 2004-2019

Epidemiology & Population Health

Low M, Eksell P, Högström K, Olsson U, Audell L, Ohlsson Å. 2019. Demography, heritability and genetic correlation of feline hip dysplasia and response to selection in a health screening programme. Scientific Reports. 9: 17164

Locke B, Low M, Forsgren E. 2019. An integrated management strategy to prevent outbreaks and eliminate infection pressure of American foulbrood disease in a commercial beekeeping operation. Preventive Veterinary Medicine. 167: 48-52

Berggren Å, Jansson A, Low M. 2019. Approaching ecological sustainability in the emerging insects-as-food industry. Trends in Ecology & Evolution. 34: 132-138

Semberg E, de Miranda JR, Low M, Jansson A, Forsgren E, Berggren Å. 2019. Diagnostic protocols for the detection of Acheta domesticus densovirus (AdDNV) in cricket frass. Journal of Virological Methods. 264:61-64

Low M, Tsegaye AT, Ignell R, Hill S, Elleby R, Feltelius V, Hopkins R. 2016. The importance of accounting for larval detectability in mosquito habitat-association studies. Malaria Journal. 15:253 

Preuss S, Low M, Cassel-Lundhagen A, Berggren Å. 2014. Evaluating range-expansion models for calculating non-native species’ expansion rate. Ecology and Evolution. 4:2812-2822.

Kulma K, Low M, Bensch S, Qvarnström A. 2014. Malaria-infected female collared flycatchers (Ficedula albicollis) do not pay the cost of late breeding. PLoS ONE 9(1): e85822.

Arlt D, Low M & Pärt T. 2013. Effect of geolocators on migration and subsequent breeding performance of a long-distance passerine migrant. PLoS ONE: 8(12): e82316

Kulma K, Low M, Bensch S, Qvarnström A. 2013 Malaria infections reinforce competitive asymmetry between two Ficedula flycatchers in a recent contact zone. Molecular Ecology 22(17): 4591-4601.

Lawrence BL Low M. 2012. Does hole-roosting behaviour of Mohua increase the risk of predation by introduced mammals? Notornis. 54: 23-27

Schneider NA Low M Arlt D Pärt T. 2012 Contrast in edge vegetation structure modifies the predation risk of natural ground nests in an agricultural landscape. PLoS One. 7(2):e31517

Low M. 2010 Which factors limited stitchbird population growth on Mokoia Island? NZ Journal of Ecology 34:269-271

Low M Arlt D Eggers S Pärt T. 2010 Habitat-specific differences in adult survival rates and its links to parental workload and on-nest predation. Journal of Animal Ecology 79:214-224

Low M Pärt T. 2009 Patterns of mortality for each life-history stage in a population of the endangered New Zealand stitchbird. Journal of Animal Ecology 78:761-771

Berggren Å Low M. 2009 The relationship between morphological symmetry and immune response in wild-caught adult bush-crickets. Symmetry 1:106-114

Low M Alley M Minot E. 2007 Sub-lingual oral fistulas in free-living stitchbirds. Avian Pathology 36:101-107

Low M Alley M Scott I. 2007 Pruritic facial dermatitis in a population of free-living stitchbirds. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 43:262-268

Low M Eason D Elliott G McInnes K Paul-Murphy J. 2006 Hematologic and biochemical reference intervals for the kakapo: generation and interpretation in a field-based wildlife recovery program. Journal of Avian Medicine & Surgery 20:80-88.

Low M Berggren Å Morgan K Alley M 2005 Aspergillosis in a North Island robin NZ Veterinary Journal 53:462-464

Low M Eason D McInnes K 2005 Evaluation of passive integrated transponders for identification of kakapo. Emu 105:33-38.

Berggren Å. & Low M. 2004. Leg problems and banding associated leg injuries in a closely monitored population of North Island robin (Petroica longipes). Wildlife Research. 31: 535-541.

Low M. 2003. Stereotypies and behavioural medicine: confusions in current thinking. Australian Veterinary Journal 81: 192-198.

Population, Conservation & Behavioural Ecology

Low M, Arlt D, Knape J, Pärt T, Öberg M. 2019. Factors influencing plasticity in the arrival‐breeding interval in a migratory species reacting to climate change. Ecology & Evolution. 9: 12291-12301.

KC KB, Koju NP, Bhusal KP, Low M, Ghimire SK, Ranabhat R, Panthi S. 2019. Factors influencing the presence of the endangered Egyptian vulture Neophron percnopterus in Rukum, Nepal. Global Ecology and Conservation. 20: e00727 

Parquet M, Arlt D, Knape J, Low M, Forslund P, Pärt T. 2019. Quantifying the links between land use and population growth rate in a declining farmland bird. Ecology & Evolution. 9: 868-879

Rubene D, Leidefors M, Ninkovic V, Eggers S, Low M. 2019. Disentangling olfactory and visual information used by field foraging birds. Ecology & Evolution. 9: 545-552 

Johansson Ö, Koehler G, Rauset GR, Samelius G, Anren H, Mishra C, Lhagvasuren P, McCarthy T, Low M. 2018. Sex-specific seasonal variation in puma and snow leopard home range utilization. Ecosphere. 9:e02371.

Hoeber S, Arranz C, Nordh NE, Baum C, Low M, Nock C, Scherer-Lorenzen M, Weih M. 2018. Genotype identity has a more important influence than genotype diversity on shoot biomass productivity in willow short-rotation coppices. Global Change Biology: Bioenergy. 10:534-547 

Stephan J, Low M, Stenberg J, Björkman C. 2016. Predator hunting mode and host plant quality shape attack-abatement patterns of predation risk in an insect herbivore. Ecosphere 7(11):e01541 

Dobson FS, Lane JE, Low M, Murie JO. 2016. Fitness implications of seasonal climate variation in Columbian ground squirrels.  Ecology & Evolution. 6: 5614–5622. doi:10.1002/ece3.2279

Aronsson M, Low M, López-Bao JV, Persson J, Odden, J, Linnell JDC, Andrén H. 2016. Intensity of space use reveals conditional sex-specific effects of prey and conspecific density on home range size. Ecology & Evolution 6: 2957–2967

Rauset GR, Low M, Persson J. 2015. Reproductive patterns result from age-related sensitivity to resources and reproductive costs in a mammalian carnivore. Ecology. 96:3153-3164

Arlt D, Olsson P, Fox JW, Low M, Pärt T. 2015. Prolonged stopover duration characterises migration strategy and constraints of a long-distance migrant songbird. Animal Migration. 2:47-62

Low M, Arlt D, Pärt T, Öberg M. 2015. Delayed timing of breeding as a cost of reproduction. Journal of Avian Biology. 46: 325-331

Öberg M, Arlt D, Pärt T, Laugen AT, Eggers S, Low M. 2015. Rainfall during parental care reduces reproductive and survival components of fitness in a passerine bird.  Ecology and Evolution. 5: 345-356.

Hiron M, Rubene D, Mweresa CK, Ajamma YUO, Owino EA, Low M. 2014. Crop damage by granivorous birds despite intensive protection efforts by human bird scarers. Ostrich 85: 153-159.

Eggers S & Low M. 2014. Differential demographic responses of sympatric Parids to vegetation management in boreal forest. Forest Ecology & Management. 319: 169-175.

Southwell C, Low M, Newbery K, Emmerson L. 2014. First comprehensive abundance survey of a newly discovered Adélie penguin breeding metapopulation in the Robinson Group of islands, Mac. Robertson Land, East Antarctica. Antarctic Science 26:265-266.

Makan T Castro I Robertson AW Joy MK Low M. 2014 Habitat complexity and management intensity positively influence fledging success in the endangered hihi. NZ Journal of Ecology 38(1): 53-63.

Öberg M Pärt T Arlt D Laugen AT Low M. 2014. Decomposing the seasonal fitness decline. Oecologia 174(1): 139-150

Chambers L, Altwegg R, Barbraud C, Barnard P, Beaumont L, Crawford R, Durant J, Hughes L, Keatley M, Low M, Morellato P, Poloczanska E, Ruoppolo V, Vanstreels R, Woehler E, Wolfaardt A. 2013. Phenological changes in the Southern Hemisphere. PLoS One 8(10): e75514.

Thorogood R, Armstrong DP, Low M, Brekke P, Walker L & Ewen J. 2013. The value of long-term ecological research: integrating knowledge for conservation of hihi on Tiritiri Matangi Island. NZ Journal of Ecology 37(3): 298-306

Kaňuch P Kiehl B Low M Cassel-Lundhagen A. 2013 On variation of polyandry in the bush-cricket M. roeseli in northern Europe. Journal of Insect Science 13:16

Eriksson A Berggren Å Low M. 2013. Influence of linear versus network corridors on the movement and dispersal of the bush-cricket Metrioptera roeseli (Orthoptera: Tettigoniidae) in an experimental landscape. European Journal of Entomology 110: 81-86

Mihoub JB Mouawad NG Pilard P Jiguet F Low M Teplitsky C. 2012 Impact of temperature on breeding performance & selection patterns in lesser kestrels. Journal of Avian Biology 43: 472-480

Low M Makan T Castro I. 2012 Food availability and offspring demand influence sex-specific patterns and repeatability of parental provisioning. Behavioral Ecology 23:25-34

Pärt T Arlt D Doligez B Low M Qvarnström A. 2011 Prospectors combine social and environmental information to improve habitat selection and breeding success in the subsequent year. Journal of Animal Ecology 80:1227-1235

Cassel-Lundhagen A Kaňuch P Low M Berggren Å. 2011 Limited gene flow may enhance adaptation to local optima in isolated populations of the Roesel´s bush cricket Journal of Evolutionary Biology 24:381-390

Thor G Low M. 2011 The persistence of the snow petrel in Dronning Maud Land for >37000 years Polar Biology 34:609-613

Low M Eggers S Arlt D Pärt T. 2008 Daily patterns of nest visits are correlated with ambient temperature in the Northern Wheatear Journal of Ornithology 149:515-519

Lindsay K Craig J Low M. 2008 Tourism and conservation: the effects of track proximity on avian reproductive success and nest selection in an open sanctuary. Tourism Management 29:730-739

Low M 2008. Laying gaps in the New Zealand stitchbird are correlated with female harassment by extra-pair males. Emu 108:28-34

Low M Meyer L Southwell C. 2007 Number and distribution of Adélie penguins breeding sites in the Robinson Group, McRobertson Land coast, east Antarctica. Polar Record 43:225-229

Low M Pärt T Forslund P. 2007 Age-specific variation in reproduction is largely explained by the timing of territory establishment in the New Zealand stitchbird. Journal of Animal Ecology 76:459-470

Berggren Å Low M. 2006 Sexual dichromatism in North Island robins is weakened by delayed plumage maturation in males and females. Emu 106:203-209

Low M. 2006 The energetic cost of mate guarding is correlated with territorial intrusions in the New Zealand stitchbird. Behavioral Ecology 17:270-276

Low M. 2005 Factors influencing mate guarding and territorial defence in the stitchbird NZ Journal of Ecology 29:231-242

Low M 2005 Female resistance and male force: context and patterns of copulation in the New Zealand stitchbird. Journal of Avian Biology 36:436-448

Low M Castro I Berggren Å. 2005 Cloacal erection promotes vent apposition during forced copulation in the New Zealand stitchbird: implications for copulation efficiency in other species. Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology 58:247-255

Low M. 2004. Female weight predicts the timing of forced copulation attempts in stitchbirds, Notiomystis cincta. Animal Behaviour 68: 637-644

Berggren Å. & Low M. 2004. Exclusion of a native bush-cricket (Metrioptera brachyptera) by an introduced bush-cricket (Metrioptera roeseli): a large-scale experiment. Entomologisk Tidskrift. 125: 125-132



Feckler A, Low M, Zubrod JP, Bundschuh M. 2018. When significance becomes insignificant: effect sizes and their uncertainties in Bayesian and frequentist frameworks as an alternative approach when analyzing ecotoxicological data. Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry. 7:1949-1955.

Berggren Å, Jansson A, Low M. 2018. Using current systems to inform rearing facility design in the insect-as-food industry. Journal of Insects as Food & Feed. 4:167-170

Pärt T, Knape J, Low M, Öberg M, Arlt D. 2017. Disentangling the effect of date, individual and territory quality on the seasonal decline in fitness. Ecology. 98:2102-2110

Mills JA, Teplitsky C, Arroyo B, Charmantier A, Becker PH, Birkhead T, Bize P, Blumstein DT, Bonenfant C, Boutin S, Bushuev A, Cam E, Cockburn A, Côté SD, Coulson JC, Daunt F, Dingemanse NJ, Doligez B, Drummond H, Espie RHM, Festa-Bianchet M, Frentiu F, Fitzpatrick JW, Furness RW, Garant D, Gauthier G, Grant PR, Griesser M, Gustafsson L, Hansson B, Harris MP, Jiguet F, Kjellander P,  Korpimäki E, Krebs CJ, Lens L, Linnell JDC, Low M, McAdam A, Margalida A, Merilä J , Møller AP, Nakagawa S, Nilsson JÅ, Nisbet ICT, van Noordwijk AJ, Oro D, Pärt T, Pelletier F, Potti J, Pujol B, Réale D, Rockwell RF, Ropert-Coudert Y, Roulin A, Thébaud C, Sedinger JS, Swenson JE, Visser ME, Wanless S, Westneat DF, Wilson AJ, Zedrosser A. 2015. Archiving primary data: solutions for long-term studies. Trends in Ecology & Evolution. 30: 581-589

Chargé R, Teplitsky C, Sorci G, Low M. 2014. Can sexual selection theory inform genetic management of captive populations? A review. Evolutionary Applications.  7:1120-1133

Southwell C McKinlay J Low M Wilson D Newbery K Lieser J Emmerson L. 2013 Regional-scale estimation of penguin abundance in Antarctica: applying new methods and technologies within a general estimation framework. Polar Biology 6: 843-856

Southwell C Low M. 2009 Black and white or shades of grey? Detectability of Adélie penguins during shipboard surveys in the Antarctic pack ice. Journal of Applied Ecology 46:136-143

Low M Meyer L Southwell C. 2008 Experimental evaluation of a ground-based survey method for estimating the density and abundance of nesting Adélie penguins. Polar Biology 31:309-315

Low M. 2006 Sex, age and season influence morphometrics in the New Zealand stitchbird Emu 106:297-304

Low M Joy M Makan T. 2006 Using regression trees to predict male provisioning of offspring in the stitchbird. Animal Behaviour 71:1057-1068

Researcher at the Department of Ecology; NJ, Landscape Ecology Unit
Telephone: +4618672411
Postal address:
Inst för Ekologi, Box 7044
750 07 UPPSALA
Visiting address: Ulls Väg 16, Uppsala