Current Position: Lecturer in Animal Behaviour and Physiology at Royal Holloway University of London
I started my higher education in science at the University of Wales Aberystwyth where I studied Zoology.
During my undergraduate studies, I was fascinated by animal migration, and the physiology and behaviour that lie behind it. My PhD at the University of Birmingham focused on bird physiology and the energetics of migratory flight, using biologging technology to work with free-flying birds.
After finishing my first postdoc at Birmingham, I moved to The Royal Veterinary College to undertake my second Post Doctoral Research position. While at the RVC, I worked in with Structure and Motion Laboratory (SML), with Alan Wilson and Jim Usherwood, on a large-scale project called CARDyAL (Cooperative Aerodynamics and Radio-based DYnamic Animal Localisation). CARDyAL aimed to understand group dynamics in animals on the move, using newly developed high-precision biologging technology. In particular, to understand the rules and interactions that take place in large groups of animals, and the energetic and behavioural consequences of such rules.
My role was to work on collective behaviour in flocking birds, particularly birds flying in V formations. The data collection involved fieldwork in Europe, starting in Austria and heading to Italy, teaching reintroduced birds their historic migration routes to former wintering grounds. Living in a tent with no electricity or running water for a few weeks provided an exciting challenge, and a real test for the newly developed SML technology and equipment.
From a practical perspective, the role allowed me to be part of, and learn from, a well-funded laboratory with a wealth of resources, facilities and highly-skilled technical staff. Conceptually, being in a successful lab taught me to think large-scale and to think big, and to be ambitious both with ideas and outputs. The latter skills in particular were incredibly useful in terms of looking ahead to forging my own independent research career.
The project has so far led to a 1st author paper in Nature, and a 2nd author paper in PNAS, with more manuscripts currently under construction. Prior to my departure from the RVC, I was offered a Lectureship at Royal Holloway, University of London. A lectureship had always been my career goal, and I’ve no doubt that the research and publications that resulted from my time at the RVC were pivotal for me in securing a permanent position. Furthermore, the presentation skills that were developed during numerous conferences and other networking events that I attended certainly made the transition to lecturing easier than it could have been.
Date: August 2015