Prof. Blair Wolf
Blair Wolf is a professor of biology at the University of New Mexico. His research focuses on the physiological ecology of vertebrates - he is interested in how complex thermal environments and heat stress affect the thermoregulation, energetics, and water balance of birds and mammals. For animals living in hot environments, day-to-day life requires significant amounts of water, and when it is really hot, birds must evaporate large quantities of water to maintain body temperature below lethal levels. Understanding the capacities of birds to cope with increased heat stress in a warming world is a prerequisite for understanding their survival and persistence in the future.
Our most recent work on reproduction in arid zone birds has demonstrated that even ecologically similar species often vary greatly in their response to warming and drought. Over a seven-year period, increasing air temperatures and drought in central New Mexico produced severe declines (90%) in a Burrowing Owl population while the sympatric Loggerhead Shrike population increased by 30%. Interestingly, reproduction advanced by almost 30 days in shrikes, but was delayed by more than 14 days in owls. Both species show decreases in reproductive success with higher air temperatures and drought, with higher predation pressure (snakes and coyotes) on the open cup nests of shrikes and food limitation driving reproductive failures in owls.
Assoc. Prof. Amanda Ridley
Assoc. Prof. Amanda Ridley
Centre for Evolutionary Biology
The University of Western Australia (M092)
35 Stirling Highway
Crawley WA, 6009
Tel: +61 8 6488 3740
Research Project website
University of Western Australia webpage
Percy FitzPatrick Institute webpage
I have been collecting data on the causes and consequences of cooperative behaviour in pied babblers since 2003. My current primary interests are: the causes of variation in contributions to cooperative care, the short- and long-term consequences of helping behaviour (to both the helper and the individual being helped), and how to measure the cost of help. Additionally, I am interested in sexual selection and how that operates in a cooperative species where sexual monogamy prevails and breeding spaces are extremely limited. Specifically, I aim to determine the importance of mate versus rival assessment, and how mate quality affects dispersal and eviction patterns in cooperative species.
An additional aspect of my research involves understanding interspecific interactions and communication. Originally I started investigating these interactions between pied babblers and fork-tailed drongos. More recently, I have begun investigating interspecific interactions in scimitar-bills, yellow-billed hornbills and wattled starlings. The recent arrival of brood parasitism in our study population has caused me to be intensely interested in the relationship between a brood parasite and its cooperative host, and this research is planned for the next few years.
With the help of a new research grant, I am beginning research on understanding long-term population dynamics in cooperative species, including factors that promote the expansion or extinction of groups. I will be using the long-term datasets of Arabian and pied babblers to determine the influence of climatic changes (heatwaves and droughts) on social dynamics at both the group and population level
Assoc. Prof. Cedric Sueur
Cédric Sueur is associate Professor (Maître de Conférences) at the University of Strasbourg since 2011. He is mainly working on animal behaviour and specifically on social networking and decision-making in animal groups at the Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien (Département d’Ecologie, Physiologie, Ethologie). He got the Young Scientist Award from the French Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Cédric Sueur is at the head of a network entitled
“Social Network Analysis in Animal Societies” (SNAAS).
Dr. Rowan Martin
Rowan’s research interests lie in the fields of behavioural ecology and conservation, specifically understanding the evolutionary and ecological drivers of behaviour, and the implications of behavior for the persistence of populations. Rowan completed his PhD at the University of Sheffield where he studied the drivers of mating systems and breeding behavior in the globally-threatened Yellow-shouldered Amazon parrot. He moved to the Fitz and joined the Hot birds project in 2009 as a DST/NRF Centre of Excellence Post-doctoral Fellow. He currently holds a position as the director of the World Parrot Trust’s Africa Conservation Programme but maintains close links with the Hot birds project as a Research Associate of the Fitz and continues to collaborate and co-supervise postgraduate students.
Martin, R.O. Cunningham S.J. Hockey P. A. 2015. Elevated temperatures drive fine-scale patterns of habitat use in a savannah bird community. Ostrich 86 (1-2), 127-135
Cunningham, S. J., Martin, R. O., Hockey, P.A.R. 2015. Can behaviour buffer the impacts of climate change on an arid-zone bird? Ostrich, Ostrich 86 (1-2), 119-126
Cunningham, S.J., Martin, R.O., Hojem, C.L. & Hockey, P.A.R. 2013. Temperatures in excess of critical thresholds threaten nestling growth and survival in a rapidly-warming arid savanna: a study of common fiscals. PLOS One 8:e74613.
du Plessis, K.L., Martin, R.O., Hockey, P.A.R., Cummingham, S.J. & Ridley, A.R. 2012. The costs of keeping cool in a warming world: implications of high temperatures for foraging, thermoregulation and body condition of an arid-zone bird. Global Change Biology 18:3063-3070.
Dr. Ben Smit
Early in 2009, I registered for my PhD in Zoology, under supervision of Prof. Andrew McKechnie, University of Pretoria, and Prof. Phil Hockey, Percy FitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town. That year marked the start of an exciting and fulfilling research career, focusing on ecological and evolutionary physiology in endothermic animals. Early in 2013, I accepted a position as a Lecturer in evolution and physiology in the Department of Zoology at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, and graduated with my PhD early 2014. Overall, my research interests focuses on the ecological and evolutionary physiology of endotherms.
I am currently developing a research program to address the importance of thermal physiology in shaping endotherm performance and physiological traits. I am particularly interested in the role of these traits in climate adaptation. A key question of my research is to determine how current and/or historical environmental factors, as well as evolutionary history, influence the physiological traits of thermoregulation, and energy- and water balance in vertebrates. To address these questions, and others involving environmental selective pressures, my research integrates physiological, behavioural and ecological factors on an individual, population and community level.
Smit B., Harding C., Hockey P. A., McKechnie A. E. (2013), Adaptive thermoregulation during summer in two populations of an arid-zone passerine. Ecology 94:1142-1154
Smit B., McKechnie A. E. (2010), Avian seasonal metabolic variation in a subtropical desert: basal metabolic rates are lower in winter than in summer. Functional Ecology 24:330-339
Dr. Phoebe Barnard
Dr. Phoebe Barnard
Birds & Environmental Change Partnership Programme, South African National Biodiversity Institute
Tel: +27 (0)21 799 8722
Fax: +27 (0)21 799 8705
Climate Change Science Lead, South African National Biodiversity Institute, and honorary research associate at the FitzPatrick Institute, leading the joint SANBI/UCT research team on vulnerability and adaptation of fynbos endemic birds to climate and land use change (http://www.fitzpatrick.uct.ac.za/fitz/research/programmes/current/climate andhttp://www.fitzpatrick.uct.ac.za/fitz/staff/research/barnard/), see also http://www.acdi.uct.ac.za/associates/dr-phoebe-barnard). Phoebe’s work is about why some species are more vulnerable to environmental change than others, what birds can tell us about ecosystem health and human well-being, how species move across fragmented landscapes in response to climate and land-use change, and what options we have to help them persist through the next few difficult centuries. Her joint UCT/SANBI research team on global change and conservation biology of fynbos endemics uses the lenses of behavioural, evolutionary, population, molecular and stress ecology in order to understand bird vulnerability in real-life and virtual landscapes. The team works with researchers from the UK, Australia, South Africa, France, Chile and New Zealand to understand bird vulnerability to global change, and options for increasing adaptation in fragmented landscapes.
Phoebe’s interests are diverse, large and small, from sexual selection in flashy African birds, strategic planning, policy and research, status and trends of the world’s ecosystems and their ability to support humanity, and sustainability tipping points of human behaviour, institutions and society.
Dr. Alan T.K. Lee
Dr Alan Tristram Kenneth Lee
BSc Hons (Witwatersrand, RSA), Dip Comp (Open, UK), PhD (Manchester Metropolitan, UK)
Birds & Environmental Change Partnership Programme
Climate Change and BioAdaptation Division,
Kirstenbosch Research Centre
South African National Biodiversity Institute
Tel: +27 (0)44 752 1254
Cell: +27 (0)79 245 4015
Alan’s interest in hot birds started at an early age when the chicken that his mother was microwaving exploded. Since many other chickens that had been subject to the same treatment had not exploded, it appeared that not all birds react to temperature in the same way. Unable to obtain ethical permission or volunteers to undertake research into the impacts of extreme temperatures on physiology, he has subjected himself to temperature extremes including camping at high altitude in the snow in Andorra, Chile and Iceland. An extended period of time enduring the mild but damp conditions of England proved not-very-challenging and so to test the other extreme of the temperature range he cycled across the Chaco desert with limited water (not to be recommended as a recreational or survival activity) and spent extended periods of time in the humid hot conditions of the Amazon. He now experiences wild temperature extremes daily by living in the mountain Fynbos on the eastern edges of the Klein Karoo where temperatures swing from below zero to above 30 within days of each other. He is a useful member of the Hot Birds team as he is too dumb to realise that what he does, most other people would never do. He still does not understand why the chicken exploded, and will not rest until the mystery has been suitably solved. Apparently this may be some time, but we are told the information being collected on Fynbos birds and other aspects of the ecology of the Fynbos are proving useful in the meantime.