Amanda Bourne

Amanda Bourne

Contact

Amanda Bourne
Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology
DST-NRF centre of Excellence
University of Cape Town
Rondebosch, 7701
South Africa

Email: abourne.uct@gmail.com

After finishing my Masters at the University of Cape Town (2008), I worked as a farmer and gardener in the United Kingdom for two years, enjoying being in nature. When I returned home to South Africa in 2010, I worked briefly back at the University of Cape Town as a researcher while volunteering extensively with South African National Parks and BirdLife. I then joined the team at Conservation South Africa, an NGO focused on ecosystem health and ecosystem services, as a project officer. 

In my first year at Conservation South Africa, I worked on climate change adaptation and mitigation projects that included ecological restoration, carbon sequestration, community development, and habitat protection and expansion. We landed a large project on ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change in 2012, which had me moving to Springbok in northern Namaqualand, where I’ve been based ever since, to test drylands restoration and improved livestock management as climate change adaptation responses.   My new ‘Hot Birds’ PhD project (start -2016) is an incredible opportunity to bring together my interests in climate change adaptation and the arid zone with a personal passion for birds. The project adds a faunal component and a new drylands ecosystem to my climate adaptation work. 

Research interests

My research interests are particularly focused on identifying the tipping points and critical thresholds in hot, dry environments that force fundamental trade-offs between necessary fitness and population persistence functions and behaviours, and mitigation of climatic and environmental risk and stress. Arid zone species are unique and interesting as they are typically well-adapted to drought, heat stress, and other climatic extremes. Nonetheless, there are considerable lethal and non-lethal physical costs of thermoregulatory behaviour and physiological adaptations, such as reduced forage effort or foraging efficiency on hot days and a resultant loss of condition. I am really interested in direct and indirect climate- and weather-related impacts on condition, behaviour, and reproductive success.

Publications

Carrick, P, Erickson, T., Becker, C., Mayence, E., Bourne, A. 2015. A travelling workshop to compare ecological restoration in South Africa and Western Australia. Ecological Management and Restoration 16(2).

Bourne, A.  2007. Another World is Possible?: A critical exploration of Escobar’s “other worlds/worlds otherwise”. Anthropology Southern Africa 3(1).

 

Tanja van de Ven

Tanja van de Ven

Contact

Tanja van de Ven
Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology
DST-NRF centre of Excellence
University of Cape Town
Rondebosch, 7701
South Africa

Email: tanja.vandeven@uct.ac.za

 

After completing my B.Sc. in Agricultural Sciences in the Netherlands in 2007, I decided to continue my studies in South Africa. Being conservation minded and having an interest in nature and wildlife, South Africa was the country with excellent study opportunities offering great practical experience. My B.Sc. honours, through Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, involved the study of black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas) predation on an Eastern Cape springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis) population. The extensive outdoor exposure, through fieldwork, fuelled my ever increasing interest in the beauty and diversity of the country’s avifaunal community.  As such, I undertook a M.Sc., supervised by Dr Nomakwezi Mzilikazi (NMMU) and Prof Andrew McKechnie (University of Pretoria), investigating the physiological response of a small Afrotropical bird (Euplectes orix) to seasonal changes in ambient temperature. While doing this project I learned that physiological mechanisms do not explain the full extent of the individual’s response to its thermal environment, but certainly behavioural aspects need be taken into account. 

Research interests

My current ‘Hot Birds’ Ph.D. research project combines physiology and behaviour in order to assess species’ vulnerability to climate change. The scope of this project lies within my research interests and more importantly I am pleased that the outcome has the potential to inform about the species’ resilience to changes in the thermal environment and as such support conservation. Furthermore, I promote the use of less-invasive methods in physiological data collection. With the growing availability of modern science sampling tools and techniques, we can greatly reduce handling times, which in turn will lead to a reduction of animal distress producing more reliable data.

Publications

Van de Ven, T. M. F. N., R. O. Martin, T. J. F. Vink, A. E. McKechnie, and S. J. Cunningham. 2016. Regulation of heat exchange across the hornbill beak: functional similarities with toucans? PLoS ONE 11(5): e0154768. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0154768

Van de Ven, T. M. F. N., N. Mzilikazi, and A. E. McKechnie. 2013. Phenotypic flexibility in body mass, basal metabolic rate and summit metabolism in southern red bishops (Euplectes orix): Responses to short term thermal acclimation. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology 165: 319-327.

Van de Ven, T. M. F. N., N. Mzilikazi, and A. E. McKechnie. 2013. Seasonal Metabolic Variation in Two Populations of an Afrotropical Euplectid Bird. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 86: 19-26.

Van de Ven, T. M. F. N., C. J. Tambling, and G. I. H. Kerley. 2013. Seasonal diet of black-backed jackal in the Eastern Karoo, South Africa. Journal of Arid Environments 99: 23-27.

 

Ryan O' Connor

Contact

Ryan O'Connor

Department of Zoology and Entomology
University of Pretoria
Pretoria, 0002
South Africa

Email: oconn163@gmail.com

Tel: 074 520 4682

Webpage

I am originally from the United States. I did my undergraduate degree at Michigan State University where I graduated with a BSc in zoology. Although my academic interests have always lied in the sciences, it was while at Michigan State when I developed an interest in birds and decided I wanted to pursue a graduate degree studying them. I then moved to Kentucky where I did my Masters at Eastern Kentucky University studying the breeding behaviour of Chuck-will’s-widows (Antrostomus carolinensus), a North American nightjar species. From there my studies brought me to South Africa where I continue to work with nightjars.

Research interests

My research interests are centered on the interaction between organisms and their environment. Specifically, I look at how environmental temperature influences the physiological mechanisms in birds, using nighjars as model species. This research interest of mine falls under a wide umbrella of academic fields and topics, some of which being ecological forecasting, climate change, thermal physiology and ecological physiology.

Publications

O'Connor, R.S., Wolf, B.O., Brigham, R.M. and McKechnie, A.E. 2016. Avian thermoregulation in the heat: efficient evaporative cooling in two southern African nightjars. J. Comp Physiol B. DOI 10.1007/s00360-016-1047-4

Lindell, C.A., O’Connor, R.S. and Cohen, E.B. 2011. Nesting success of neotropical thrushes in coffee and pasture. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 123:502-507.

O’Connor, R.S. and Ritchison, G. 2013. Notes on the incubation, brooding, and provisioning behavior of Chuck-will’s-widows. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 125:815-819.

 

Michelle L. Thompson

Michelle L. Thompson

Contact

Michelle Leigh Thompson

Department of Zoology & Entomology
University of Pretoria
Pretoria, 0002
South Africa

Tel: 071 869 9042

Email: mlthompson@zoology.up.ac.za 
           ml.thompson89@gmail.com

Webpage

I have always been interested in nature with a special interest in birds, this made choosing to study zoology particularly easy. After matriculating in 2007 I studied a Zoology & Entomology undergraduate degree, immediately followed by an Honours degree at the University of Pretoria. I continued with a Master’s degree at the University of Pretoria looking at the effect of solar radiation on the rewarming rates and thermogenic capacity of Eastern rock elephant shrews (Elephantulus myurus) kept under semi-natural conditions. In 2014, I was then offered a PhD which would focus on validating a behavioural index to assess species vulnerability to increasing temperatures as a result of climate change. The project would focus on arid-zone bird communities and as it combined two of my passions; birding and ecophysiology, I could not refuse.

Research interests

As primarily a physiologist, my interests focus mainly on the ecological physiology of birds and other vertebrates. This includes physiological consequences of heterothermy use in small mammals as well as physiological and behavioural responses to heat and water stress in birds.

Publications

Thompson ML, Mzilikazi N, Bennett NC & Mckechnie AE. 2015. Solar radiation during rewarming from torpor in elephant shrews: supplementation or substitution of endogenous heat production? PLoS One 10(4): e0120442

 

Matthew Noakes

Matthew Noakes

Contact

Matthew Noakes
Department of Zoology & Entomology
University of Pretoria
Pretoria, 0002
South Africa

Email: matthew.noakes@zoology.up.ac.za
            noakesmatthewj@gmail.com

I began my academic career by studying a BSc Zoology at the University of Pretoria, graduating in 2011. I started my postgraduate studies the following year with a BSc (Hons) Zoology supervised by Prof. Andrew McKechnie, and a research project investigating heterothermy in African Green Pigeons (Treron calvus). I joined the Hot Birds team in 2013 when I began an MSc Zoology, quantifying variation in seasonal acclimatisation responses among populations of a widespread southern African passerine, the White-browed Sparrow-weaver (Plocepasser mahali). This research involved substantial fieldwork at three sites across South Africa along a climatic gradient. My PhD study follows on from my MSc research, by investigating the sources and mechanisms responsible for intraspecific variation in the thermoregulatory responses of passerines. This will allow us to better understand the evolution of avian thermal physiology and interpret what adaptive thermoregulation means for birds faced with changing climates.

Research interests

My research interests focus on the ecological and evolutionary physiology of endotherms, with  emphasis on the thermal physiology of birds. The majority of my research so far has involved quantifying avian thermoregulatory responses within a laboratory environment, using respirometry. My PhD work involves similar laboratory techniques as well as work on free-ranging birds, with an overall aim of exploring the flexibility of avian thermoregulatory traits under varying environmental conditions.

Publications

Noakes, M.J., Wolf, B.O. and McKechnie, A.E. (in press) Seasonal metabolic acclimatization varies in direction and magnitude among populations of an Afrotropical passerine birdPhysiological and Biochemical Zoology

McKechnie, A.E., Smit, B., Whitfield, M.C., Noakes, M.J., Talbot, W.A., Garcia, M., Gerson, A.R., & Wolf, B.O. 2016. Avian thermoregulation in the heat: evaporative cooling capacity in an archetypal desert specialist, Burchell's sandgrouse (Pterocles burchelli). Journal of Experimental Biology 219: 2137-2144.

Noakes, M.J., Wolf, B.O. & McKechnie, A. E. 2016. Seasonal and geographical variation in heat tolerance and evaporative cooling capacity in a passerine bird. Journal of Experimental Biology 219: 859-869 doi:10.1242/jeb.132001

McKechnie, A.E., Noakes, M.J. and Smit, B. 2015. Global patterns of seasonal acclimatization in avian resting metabolic rates. Journal of Ornithology:  156 (Suppl 1):S367–S376. DOI 10.1007/s10336-015-1186-5