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.





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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