Fitz Seminars: 2011

'Spatial and temporal patterns of habitat use by Fynbos avifauna: relating reporting rates to density estimates across a fragmented landscape' by Dr Alan Lee

Date: Thursday, October 13 2011
Time: 13h00
Venue: Niven Library
Speaker: Dr Alan Lee

Dr Lee will give a seminar on his proposed postdoctoral project.

Brief bio: Alan Lee’s PhD through Manchester Metropolitan University investigated the spatial ecology of resource use, particularly geophagy (use of claylicks) by a Peruvian parrot assemblage. He lives in the western Baviaanskloof region and is interested in linking conservation status assessment, resource use and density of Fynbos endemic birds across the east-west rainfall gradient of the biome.

'The birds and the bees in the trees: the role of urban trees in supporting biodiversity' by Ed Waite

Date: Friday 26th August 2011
Time: 13h00
Venue: Niven Library
Speaker: Ed Waite, PhD student, Department of Botany, Otago University, New Zealand

Abstract: As the area of land under urban development continues to grow, providing opportunities for nature conservation in towns and cities is of increasing importance. While bird populations in urban areas undergo well described and predictable transformations, the factors underlying these changes remain poorly understood. Two aspects of my PhD research project will be presented. 1. Urban trees are a significant, yet unstudied part of the urban landscape. Their potential use as stepping-stones by birds will be examined. 2. Silvereyes (Zosterops lateralis) are one of the most common urban birds in New Zealand, and provide a useful study organism for what constitutes a successful urban survivor. Aspects of their foraging ecology in urban trees will be described, challenging the notion that the secret to success lies in the concept of 'generalist' species.

'Surfing the digital wave - Africa Geographic’s digital publishing agency - bigFIG'

Date: Wednesday 25 May 2011
Time: 13h00 - 14h30
Venue: Niven Library
Speaker: Harriet Nimmo

The renowned Africa Geographic publishing house is now riding the digital wave. It produces two new, bold and exciting, interactive digimags, featuring awesome videos, photos and animations - trying to make the planet a better place.

PLANET, produced in partnership with WWF International, is an attitude-changing exploration of the world we live in and how to make the connection between global environmental issues, and our daily lives at work and home:

SAFARI, is a sizzling hot, new monthly digimag about African travel, wildlife and conservation – your African journey starts here:

Both digimags make full use of the social media space, encouraging readers to share their experiences, photos and video clips – and are always on the look-out for new stories, features and contributors.

bigFig, Africa Geographic’s digital media agency, believes that promoting the take-up of digital media will help reduce the pressure on our planet's precious resources; that educating people and corporations about sustainable living is key, for ourselves and our planet; and that we do well by doing good.

About the speaker: Having spent all her free time and money travelling round Africa’s wildlife destinations for the past 20 years, Harriet Nimmo has finally jumped ship and left the UK to join bigFIG as Commercial Director. Her new role is to lead the strategic roll-out of the digimags, and building partnerships with the international corporate sector. Previously she was CEO of Wildscreen - delivering the internationally renowned wildlife and environmental film festival, the WildPhotos nature photography symposium as well as being responsible for developing the award winning - the world’s digital databank of film and photos of endangered species. With a BSc/MSc in Zoology, Harriet’s passion and expertise is how to communicate about the natural world - so that better stories may be told to ever wider audiences, to help raise greater understanding of the natural world and the threats it faces. She was named European Professional Woman of Achievement in 2003 for the development of ARKive

UCT Vice-Chancellor's Open Lecture by Sir David Attenborough

The UCT Vice-Chancellor's Open Lecture by Sir David Attenborough at the Baxter Theatre on Wednesday 13 April 2011 will be the final celebratory event of the 50th Anniversary of the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology.

Topic: Alfred Russel Wallace and the Birds of Paradise
Date: Wednesday 13 April 2011
Time: 19:30 (Guests to be seated by 19:25)
Venue: Baxter Concert Hall, Baxter Theatre Centre, Rondebosch

Please Note: Due to limited seating in the Baxter Concert Hall, this event will be ticketed and tickets can only be collected in person from the Box Office at the Baxter Theatre Centre. The tickets will not be available at any other Computicket outlet, nor on-line. The tickets will be available on a first-come-first-served basis. A maximum of two tickets can be collected per person. There will be no reservations of tickets. Tickets can be collected from Thursday 7 April until Saturday 9 April 2011.

More details about the talk can be found on the UCT website: Open Lecture by Sir David Attenborough.

Fitz AGM Seminar Programme: 8 April 2011

The Seminar Programme for this year's AGM is now available and can be downloaded or viewed online here.

'The invasion process: Introduction, establishment, spread and population growth of the Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) in an Australian city' by Kate Grarock

Date: Tuesday 8 March
Time: 13h00
Venue: Niven Library
Speaker: Kate Grarock, PhD student, Australian National University

Exotic species are a major cause of biodiversity loss, with their numbers and impact increasing worldwide. To manage these invasions it is important that decision-makers understand what stage the invasion process is in, approximately how long it will take to reach the next stage and what is the best plan of management for that stage. In this talk I investigate the invasion history of the Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis), in Canberra, Australia, analysing 28 years of community bird survey data to provide valuable information on how quickly the bird can become established, grow in numbers, and spread to new areas. The Common Myna first became established in a Canberra suburb in 1969 with the release of over 100 birds. The population quickly spread to surrounding areas and continued to spread until, 31 years after introduction, it was established in every Canberra suburb,. The mean rate of range expansion was 0.42 km per year. Once established in a region the density of Common Myna birds remained low for an average of 7 years. After this, numbers increased rapidly. Population growth lasted for an average of 13.4 years, with growth slowing or even decreasing after this period. This study will help decision-makers understand the importance of quick action when it comes to dealing with Common Myna invasions. Although the spread of the species can occur relatively slowly, once the population starts to increase, control becomes increasingly difficult.

About the speaker: Kate Grarock holds a degree in Environmental Science from Wollongong University. Currently, she is a PhD student at the Fenner School of Environment & Society at the Australian National University. She is currently researching the introduction and spread of the Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) in Canberra. Her research has three main components. Firstly, she is investigating the history of the Common Myna invasion in Canberra; secondly, she is exploring competition between native birds and the Common Myna; and thirdly, she is assessing the efficacy of control measures.

'Bearded Vulture Conservation' by Sonja Kruger

Date: Thursday 17 February 2011
Time: 13h00
Venue: Niven Library
Speaker: Sonja Kruger, a prospective PhD student at the FitzPatrick Institute

Sonja Kruger, a prospective PhD student at the Fitz, will give a talk on her research on the Endangered Bearded Vulture of Lesotho and South Africa. She has followed birds for several years with satellite tags and she will give up-to-date results on the birds' wanderings and the conservation initiatives to reduce the threats.

Abstract: The Bearded Vulture population has declined drastically in southern Africa over the past century, resulting in a single isolated population restricted to the Maluti-Drakensberg mountains. Research over the past 10 years has provided information on the number and trend in breeding pairs, their ranging behaviour, and the threats to the species. Within the past quarter century, the Bearded Vulture in southern Africa has lost a third of its breeding range and a third of its breeding pairs. The population is estimated at less than 500 birds. Preliminary data on ranging behaviour obtained from satellite transmitters indicate that fledglings range close to their nest sites within the first few months of fledging as do adults during the breeding season, whereas juveniles range extensively across the Maluti-Drakensberg mountains. Data from marked birds has shown that poisoning and collisions with powerlines pose the greatest threats to the species. Although there has been some conservation effort in recent years, these have not been successful in addressing the threats to the species. Appropriate threat mitigation measures need to be implemented as part of a management strategy for the Bearded Vulture to reverse the decline of the species.

'Warbler secrets revealed by songs and DNA' by Per Alström

Date: Tuesday, 25 January 2011
Time: 13h00
Venue: Niven Library
Speaker: Per Alström, Swedish Species Information Centre, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden

The avian superfamily Sylvioidea ("warblers", larks, swallows, bulbuls etc.) has been intensely studied by molecular markers in recent years, revealing a multitude of previously unexpected relationships. A number of well supported major clades have been established, and proposed to be recognised at the family level, although the relationships among these are still uncertain. Within these families, previously recognised genera have frequently been found to be non-monophyletic, calling for taxonomic revision, and underscoring the perils of basing classifications on non-cladistic evaluations of morphological data. Moreover, molecular markers in combination with non-molecular data, notably vocalizations, have shown that many taxa currently treated as subspecies are highly distinct, leading to reclassification of these as separate species. In some genera, this has led to a substantial increase in the number of recognised species. The present talk will give an overview and some examples of recent advances in the systematics of "warblers", mainly based on the speaker's research on (primarily) Eurasian species.

'A stab in the dark: the evolution of brood parasitism in Greater Honeyguides' by Dr Claire Spottiswoode

Date: Friday, 14 January 2011
Time: 13h00
Venue: Niven Library

Dr Claire Spottiswoode is a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge, UK & Research Associate of the FitzPatrick Institute, UCT.

Talk summary: Brood parasitic birds such as cuckoos are cheats that lay their eggs in the nests of other species, and exploit them to pay the costs of raising their young. Host species, in turn, have evolved defences against such cheats, such as rejecting foreign eggs from their nests, favouring parasitic counter-adaptations such as egg mimicry. The two parties can thus become locked in a coevolutionary struggle, each to stay one step ahead of the other, as parasites evolve ever better manipulation of their hosts, and hosts respond with ever more refined defences to evade parasitism. This talk will be about an African brood parasite, the Cuckoo Finch, whose hosts have evolved an intriguing defence against parasitism: laying eggs in a spectacular diversity of colours. The talk will investigate the evolution of such defensive polymorphisms in different host species, using visual modelling techniques to study egg colour and pattern through a bird's eye. It will show how this coevolutionary 'arms race' between parasite and hosts has led to remarkably rapid changes in egg appearance within the time scale of a human lifetime.