Dr Gabriel A. Jamie

Biography & Research

Gabriel Jamie with Mozambican Tailorbird

Gabriel Jamie with Mozambican Tailorbird, Njesi Plateau, November 2016 (photo by Mac Stone).

Gabriel Jamie became interested in science as a child through watching birds, first in Cape Town and then in the United Kingdom. This has resulted in a life-long avian obsession that has led him to fieldwork on birds in many places around the world. As a teenager he worked on projects studying migratory birds in the Danube Delta of Romania and on Antikythira in Greece. While doing an undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, Gabriel spent summers working as a research assistant studying bird communities in Peru with scientists from Oxford University and Conservation International.

After graduating, Gabriel went on to do a PhD with Professor Claire Spottiswoode at University of Cambridge conducting fieldwork in Zambia to study mimicry and speciation in the brood-parasitic Vidua finches (indigobirds and whydahs), funded by The Leverhulme Trust. As part of this work he developed a new conceptual framework for understanding how mimicry is conceived and categorised in the natural world. His research on mimicry in the Vidua finches was published in the journal Evolution where it was featured on the front cover and was awarded the Society for the Study of Evolution President’s Award for Outstanding Paper published in Evolution. The research was also featured in a recent BBC and Netflix documentary, Attenborough’s Life in Colour, for which Gabriel was a scientific consultant during the filming which took place at the field site in Choma.

Gabriel went on to take up a BBSRC-funded post-doctoral research associate position at the University of Cambridge where his work has focussed on the brood-parasitic Cuckoo Finch (Anomalospiza imberbis) and its Tawny-flanked Prinia (Prinia subflava) hosts. Prinias have evolved incredibly diverse eggs which vary dramatically in colour and pattern between individuals. In collaboration with Professor Michael Sorenson of Boston University and Professor Claire Spottiswoode of Cambridge/University of Cape Town, Gabriel is currently investigating the genetic basis of this diversity and the consequences of this genetic architecture for the co-evolutionary trajectories in the ongoing arms race between prinias and their Cuckoo Finch parasites. More generally he is researching the evolution of polymorphisms across species radiations as explored in a recent article co-written with Dr Joana Meier in Trends in Ecology and Evolution. This paper was selected as the Trends Editor’s Pick and featured on the front cover.

In 2021, Gabriel was awarded a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellowship allowing him to build on his previous work with Professor Claire Spottiswoode and Dr Joana Meier to extend his investigations into the origins and evolution of polymorphisms beyond single species in order to understand their dynamics across species radiations. To explore these concepts, Gabriel is using the avian family Cisticolidae, and in particular the genus Cisticola, as a model system to investigate the evolution of polymorphisms across a species-rich African radiation.

Gabriel is a passionate field biologist and has been involved in ornithological expeditions around the world to study poorly-known species and understudied habitats with a particular focus on African biodiversity. He is a Research Associate at the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town. In November 2016, Gabriel was part of an expedition to the Njesi Plateau in northern Mozambique with researchers from BINCO. Together with Sam Jones, they discovered new populations of the highly endangered Mozambican Tailorbird (Artisornis sousae) and Dapplethroat (Modulatrix orostruthus) as well as finding two species previously unrecorded from Mozambique (publication here).

 

See also:

Publications | Google Scholar Profile Departmental Webpage | Xeno-canto profile

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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