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!

News

Symposium on moult in tropical birds at International Ornithological Congress

Dr Gabriel Jamie and Dr Chima Nwaogu organised a symposium on “The ecology and evolution of moult in tropical birds” as part of the International Ornithological Congress. The symposium included a Round Table discussion as well as invited talks from a range of speakers including Dr Yahkat Barshep (A. P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute, Nigeria), Dr Barbara Helm (Swiss Ornithological Research Institute, Switzerland), Dr Oluwadunsin Adekola (FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, South Africa & Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria) and Dr Yosef Kiat (University of Haifa, Israel).

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Dr Gabriel Jamie speaks at European Society for Evolutionary Biology conference

Dr Gabriel Jamie was an invited speaker at the European Society for Evolutionary Biology conference in Prague, Czech Republic, as part of the symposium on “Repeated and Parallel Evolution in Adaptive Radiations. Gabriel spoke on “The persistence of polymorphisms across species radiations” building on work conducted together with Dr Joana Meier. To learn more about this research you can read their Trends in Ecology and Evolution paper here.

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Evolutionary Biology Crash Course

Tanmay Dixit was a member of a team organising and lecturing in the inaugural Evolutionary Biology Crash Course. This course, aimed at undergraduate or early-postgraduate students, teaches evolutionary principles to students who have had limited opportunities to be exposed to evolutionary ideas. The course is funded by the Equal Opportunities Initiative Fund of the European Society of Evolutionary Biology (ESEB). Tanmay presented lectures on behavioural ecology and evolution, focussing on kin selection, coevolution, and parasitism. Over 700 students, with the vast majority from the global South, attended the course, which was a resounding success!

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