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!


Tanmay Dixit awarded PhD and starting Junior Research Fellowship

Tanmay’s PhD, entitled “Signatures and forgeries: optimality in a coevolutionary arms race” was awarded with no corrections. Huge thanks to collaborators and colleagues who were instrumental to this work, and to examiners James Herbert-Read and Graeme Ruxton. Tanmay will remain on the team and continue conducting fieldwork in Choma as part of the Junior Research fellowship that he is starting at Jesus College, Cambridge.

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