PhD Studentship Available

4 06 2023

We have a PhD studentship available, all about eggshells. Closing date June 19th. Full details can be found in the official advert, link below!

New paper out in Royal Society Open Science

25 05 2023

Our new paper is out today, “Eggshell composition and surface properties of avian brood-parasitic species compared with non-parasitic species”. Published in Royal Society Open Science, you can read it here!

Visual Field work at Birdworld

19 05 2023

This week we spent some time at Birdworld for MSc student Ellie Lucas’s project. We’re measuring the visual fields of various tropical seabird species to determine if there is a visual basis undermining why some species are prone to flying into man-made objects and others are not. We’re very grateful to Birdworld for allowing us access to their wonderful Inca Terns. The data were fascinating. More to follow!

Quick Guide in Current Biology

8 05 2023

My new Quick Quide is out today in Current Biology, all about Siamese Fighting Fish. You can read it here!

Congrats Jack

21 04 2023

Congratulations to Jack (Thirkell) who passed his PhD viva yesterday!

Paper accepted in Royal Society Open Science

13 04 2023

Very happy our paper has been accepted in Royal Society Open Science. This paper looks at the structural properties of eggshell surfaces between brood-parasites and hosts. Congratulations to first author Steph McClelland, and thank you to the many co-authors and collaborators.

Podcast with The Hawk Conservancy

9 04 2023

I recently spent some time at The Hawk Conservancy, chatting to Tom Morath about Secretary Birds and Vultures. You can listen to the Podcasts via the link below:



7 03 2023

I am on sabbatical, and visiting Australia. While here I am focusing on writing grants and working through papers, but in my spare time have been out and about meeting the local wildlife. Been thrilling to see wild emus, wombats, koalas and echidnas, to name a few. I am currently based in Melbourne visiting Prof. Craig White at Monash University, before heading to Adelaide next week to visit Dr Phill Cassey.

PhD studentship available

14 02 2023

We have a PhD studentship available. Full details are here!

Many animals travel in groups. There are benefits and consequences to group travel, neither of which will be distributed equally among group members. What determines who obtains the most benefits when travelling in a group? One factor could be your physical positioning within the group, but in turn, what dictates where you are positioned? This cost-benefit can be exacerbated in bird flocks, as the animals are moving through a three-dimensional fluid, and having to make decisions and precise movements at immensely high speeds. Positioning could result in you being in energetically advantageous or disadvantageous positions. Previously it has been demonstrated that (a) dominance hierarchies that persist on the ground do not dictate positioning within a flock, and (b) birds within a flock will stop following a previously known leader if they sense that the individual’s knowledge has been compromised. During flight, therefore, birds must be looking to specific individuals to extract information from. Is it your position within a flock, of the degree of information and knowledge you have that will determine how much other birds look to you for movement information? What are the energetic benefits and consequences of such positioning? How many other birds within the flock can actually see you? How do individuals recognise one another? These are pivotal questions for understanding how flock dynamics function and how the flow of information operates within flocks, yet relatively little is known about these factors. This project will use to track each individual’s positioning within a flock and monitor every movement of the body, focusing on wingbeat frequency and amplitude as proxies for work rate. Individual phenotyping will involve behavioural and physiological aspects, and aspects of working memory. Personality testing will include three components typically used to assess individual behavioural traits; boldness/exploration, neophobia and dominance. The key physiological determinant will be basal metabolic rate. These complimentary approaches will ascertain how behavioural or physiological parameters regulate positioning within a flock, and whether they determine leadership tendencies. Social network analyses for both ground- and flight-based scenarios will be used to ascertain which individuals prefer to be beside which. The model species are homing pigeons (Columba livia). Key hypotheses: (i) individuals who spend more time associating with each other on the ground will choose to fly beside each other during travel, (ii) during familiar flights, birds will look to regular known flock members (‘friends’) to receive information on trajectory and heading, largely ignoring the unfamiliar (‘stranger’) birds, (iii) during unfamiliar flights – from novel release sites – individuals will retrieve information on trajectory and heading equally from familiar and unfamiliar birds due to the lack of knowledge about route in any flock members, (iv) alterations of individual appearance will cause all flock-types and manipulations to respond the same as mixing up familiar and stranger birds, as birds are unable to recognise individuals, and (v) birds flying in scenario (ii) will exhibit lower wingbeat frequencies and amplitudes than those in manipulated flocks, suggesting there is a cost to flying with unfamiliar birds.

New paper out in Methods in Ecology and Evolution

8 02 2023

Our new paper is out today in Methods in Ecology and Evolution. Titled “Biologically inspired herding of animal groups by robots”, you can read it here!