Rainy season 2022

Apr 2, 2022

Cuckoo finch egg in a zitting cisticola clutch

A fruitful 2022 rainy season of fieldwork is underway! Gabriel Jamie, Maggie Mwale, Cameron Blair and Jonah Walker travelled to Choma in February to reunite with Collins Moya, Silky Hamama, and all our Zambian colleagues, to carry on the wet-season projects which were cut short by Covid in 2020, and to begin exciting new lines of investigation.

Gabriel continued his Leverhulme Fellowship work investigating the genomics of polymorphisms across a wide range of species and working together with Maggie who was also collecting nests for the Livingstone Museum’s collections and an upcoming exhibition.

Cameron assisted with collecting data for Tanmay Dixit’s PhD by conducting egg-rejection experiments in the nests of tawny-flanked prinias and several cisticolas – the host species of cuckoo finches.

Jonah meanwhile has begun the field component of his project. He is quantifying the thermal and light environment of host nests and running thermal trials to determine the heating rate of eggs of different colours and patterning. Not everything has gone to plan, of course. Host parents were, perhaps unsurprisingly, unimpressed by the thin thermistor probes we placed in their nests — with one pair snapping the wire off and weaving it into their nest!

Collins and Silky, alongside supporting all this work, kept Chima Nwaogu’s long-term insect survey going. Now running for six months and counting, we look forward to seeing the outcome of this study, especially as it heads into the poorly-characterised cold season in Choma.

A huge thank you as ever goes to our colleagues in the field who made the work possible and so enjoyable!


Jess Lund awarded an R. C. Lewontin Grant from the Society for the Study of Evolution

The Society for the Study of Evolution has awarded Jess Lund an R. C. Lewontin Graduate Research Excellence Grant, which will enable her to expand her investigations into the fascinating lives of honeyguides. This grant is awarded to students early in their PhD programmes to assist them in enhancing the scope of their research. Thank you to the SSE for their generous support of our work!

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New paper on eggshell surface properties

Stephanie McClelland’s paper entitled “Eggshell composition and surface properties of avian brood-parasitic species compared with non-parasitic species” has been published in the journal Royal Society Open Science. This study measured structural properties of the eggshells of brood parasites and their hosts around the world. The study found that…

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