Postdoctoral fellows

Anthony Lowney

Anthony Lowney
MSc (Manchester Metropolitan)

John Day Building 1.02


Anthony completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Cumbria, his thesis investigated the impacts of anthropogenic activities on populations of the protected red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris). For his MSc (at Manchester Metropolitan University), Anthony spent four months in the Philippines looking for one of the rarest birds in the world, the Isabela oriole (Oriolus isabellae). There was controversy regarding the taxonomic status of this rare species, with suggestion that the Isabela Oriole and white-lored oriole (O. albiloris) should be classified as a single species. The Isabela oriole had not been seen between 1961 and 2003, and had been seen fewer than ten times since 2003, meaning finding them involved a month camping and hiking through rainforests. Anthony succeeded in finding both species and carrying out playback experiments. Results showed that the both species discriminated between heterospecific calls. Anthony was therefore able to conclude that these orioles should remain as separate species, which consequently warrants conservation efforts for its survival.

Anthony graduated in 2020 with a PhD thesis was entitled "Sociable weaver nests as a resource to local animal communities". Here Anthony showed that weaver colonies create localised biodiversity hot-spots and that strong associations with multiple taxonomic groups exist characterising the weavers entire range. His thesis shows the importance of these weaver colonies as a resource for the whole surrounding animal community. Additionally, interactions between species at colonies demonstrate costs and benefits for weavers and their close associates, suggesting that a complicated ecological web of interactions allow predator and prey species to coexist.

Anthony’s UCT postdoctoral fellowship started at the FitzPatrick Institute in November 2019. He is continuing to work with Dr Robert Thomson to build upon data collected during his PhD and incorporating this with the Kalahari Ecosystem Engineer Project (KEEP), Anthony will investigate how weaver colonies may mitigate the increased stress associated with global climate change.