Jess Lund

Biography & Research

Jess Lund with a young greater honeyguide

My research focuses on the ways in which species interact, and the consequences of these interactions on the evolutionary trajectories of populations. I am particularly interested in the coevolutionary interactions of avian brood parasites and their hosts, and the role of phenotypic plasticity in facilitating host-specific adaptations. My research is predominantly field-based, involving observation and experiments of behaviour and physiology, but I supplement this with genetic and genomic data. I am driven by a passion for natural history, which was instilled growing up on a farm in north-eastern South Africa.

I joined the African Cuckoos team in 2019 as an MSc student, based at the University of Cape Town, where my dissertation focussed on the rare phenomenon of perfect mimicry. To explore this, I investigated the near-perfect mimicry by African cuckoos of fork-tailed drongo eggs in the Miombo woodland of southern Zambia.

In 2021 I shifted my focus from cuckoos to honeyguides. I am currently undertaking my PhD at the University of Cambridge, where I am investigating the mechanisms and ecological consequences of host specificity in honeyguides. Part of my PhD focusses on bringing together two distinct strings of greater honeyguide life history: their lives as brood parasites of bee-eaters, kingfishers, hoopoes and others; and their lives as mutualists with human honey-hunters. This fieldwork is split between Choma (Zambia), and the Niassa Special Reserve (Mozambique).  

Despite moving to the UK for my PhD, I remain unashamedly biased towards African birdlife.





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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