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BSc Zoology, MRes Biological Sciences
Research assistant Swansea University
33000 pairs (Summer)
Amniote-lizard-like-reptile (MRCA to mammals ~312 MYA)
A research assistant and MRes graduate (Swansea University) studying seabird biology in context with marine renewables.
I am a zoologist and ornithologist with a Masters by Research degree from Swansea University. For my thesis I studied the breeding biology and flight mechanics of Auks on Skomer island using laser technology.
I am currently working as a research assistant where I am studying seabird behaviour with novel devices (lasers and tags) to determine the effects of marine renewable energy devices on their biology.
In my free time I am an avid birder and ringer (attaching small metal rings to birds caught in nets in order to gain valuable biometric information for the BTO, British Trust for Ornithology).
My work involves lots of fieldtime, completing bird surveys, collecting data in its various forms etc; then the rest of my time is spent analysisng and visualising this data. The project is important as the results inform marine renewable energy companies whether their work may impact on seabird conservaton or not.
My Typical Day:
If I am on feildwork then the days start early and are long, spent collecting data. Otherwise I am in the office reading, writing or analysing data
What I'd do with the prize money:
Donate to the BTO
I should be sequenced because...: As a migratory passerine with a widespread geographic range, mapping it's genome will help us better understand threats to spotflys
Spotted flycatchers, Muscicapa striata, are sub-Saharan African migrants that come to the UK in late May to breed in our broad-leaved woodland and gardens. They are understated birds whose plumage is mostly grey with some streaking on the breast and crown but generally lacking in distinguishing features. Spotted flycatchers are a small passerine bird belonging to the family Muscicapidae (the old world flycatchers), as their name implies, they are characterised by their habit of catching flying invertebrate prey on the wing.
Male and female spotted flycatchers are not dimorphic (they look the same and cannot be separated on plumage features in the field), the juveniles have a partial-post-juvenile moult once leaving the nest and both adults and juveniles have a complete moult once they have reached their wintering grounds in Africa.
Spotted flycatchers eat a variety of winged insects from flies, aphids and hymenoptera (bees and wasps), they have adapted whiskar-like bristles on their bill to aid in catching this prey type. They are active, voracious insectivores.
This species is currently facing huge population declines in Britain and is a species of conservation priority; the last 40 years have seen summering populations plummet by ~89 %. This can be likely attributed to many factors including habitat loss on both wintering and summering grounds, lack of juvenile recruitment into the population via several mechanisms and a lack of invertebrate prey leading to increased clutch failure rates.
Some genetic work has been completed on spotflys before in order to demonstrate island speciation in the Mediterranean. Pons et al., 2016 showed that allopatric speciation occured on insular islands in ‘the Med’ which over evolutionary time, has resulted in two sub-species of spotted flycatcher (M. s. balearica & M. s. tyrrhenica). This shows that spotflys can be important biological models demonstrating complex biogeographical principles and yet their genome has not been fully mapped as of now.
Spotted flycatchers are an un-assuming but quietly beautiful species whose conservation is integral to understanding the breeding biology of sub-Saharan migrant passerines.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Intense about birds
What did you want to be after you left school?
Were you ever in trouble at school?