Research Associates

Dr Rowan Martin

Dr Rowan Martin
PhD (Sheffield, UK)
BSc Hons (East Anglia, UK)


Activities and research interests:

Rowan’s research interests lie in the fields of behavioural ecology and conservation, specifically understanding the evolutionary and ecological drivers of behaviour, and their implications for the persistence of populations. Rowan also has a general interest in the conservation of parrots (Psittacidae) and is currently the Manager of the World Parrot Trust’s Africa Conservation Programme.

Rowan was based at the Fitz between 2009 and 2013 where he held a DST/NRF Centre of Excellence Post-doctoral Fellowship. His primary research focus was on understanding the role of behavioural plasticity in mediating the impacts of climate change on birds. This research used bird communities in the hot, arid ecosystems of the southern Kalahari to investigate the implications of microclimate use for desert birds, and a long-term dataset on reproduction in a range-expanding raptor population to investigate the demographic implications of phenological plasticity and mating decisions. Rowan continues to collaborate, co-supervise students and assist in the development of the 'Hot birds' research programme with Dr Susie Cunningham.

Rowan’s interest in parrot conservation developed during his doctoral studies on the drivers of mating systems in globally-threatened Yellow-shouldered Amazon parrots (University of Sheffield, UK). This research led to the development of a locally-based NGO (Echo) implementing conservation actions.

In his role as manager of the World Parrot Trust's Africa Conservation Programme, Rowan is responsible for overseeing research, evidence-based actions and outreach initiatives in support of parrot conservation throughout the African region. Direction for the programme is taken from a recent review of research and conservation priorities for parrots in Africa and Madagascar. This review was co-ordinated by Rowan on behalf of the International Ornithologist’s Union Research Co-ordination Committee for parrots (IOU-RCCP). The programme currently includes projects located in South Africa, Zambia and Guinea-Bissau. Current research topics include the origins of disease outbreaks, the breeding behavior of threatened species, drivers of population and range changes and the impact of the wild-bird trade.

Graduated students:

MSc Conservation Biology:

Penny Pistorius. 2016. How air temperature affects flight initiation distance in arid-zone birds (Co-supervisor: Susie Cunningham)

Phenias Sadondo. 2014.The influence of temperature on parental investment in southern fiscals and consequences for nestling growth. (Co-supervisors: Peter RyanSusie Cunningham)

Gina Louw. 2012. How will climate change affect birds in hot African deserts? (Co-supervisors: Phil Hockey, Susie Cunningham)

Katherine du Plessis. 2011. Heat tolerance of Southern Pied Babblers in the Kalahari Desert: how will they respond to climate change?  (Co-supervisors: Phil Hockey, Amanda Ridley, Susie Cunningham)

Recent peer-reviewed publications:


Martin, R.O. 2018. Grey areas: temporal and geographical dynamics of international trade of Grey and Timneh Parrots (Psittacus erithacus and P. timneh) under CITES. Emu 118: 113-125.


Lopes, D.C., Martin, R.O., Henriques, M., Monteiro, H., Regalla, A., Tchantchalam, Q., Indjai, B., Cardoso, S., Manuel, C., Cunha, M., Cunha, D. and Catry, P. 2017. Nest-site characteristics and aspects of the breeding biology of the endangered Timneh Parrot Psittacus timneh in Guinea-Bissau. Ostrich.

Martin, R.O. 2017. Grey areas: temporal and geographical dynamics of international trade of Grey and Timneh Parrots (Psittacus erithacus and P. timneh) under CITES. Emu.


Fogell, D.J., Martin, R.O. and Groombridge, J.J. 2016. Beak and feather disease virus in wild and captive parrots: an analysis of geographic and taxonomic distribution and methodological trends. Archives of Virology.

Hart, J., Hart, T., Salumu, L., Bernard, A., Abani, R., and Martin, R. 2016. Increasing exploitation of Grey Parrots in eastern DRC drives population declines. Oryx 50: 16. http://dx/ 

Smit, B., Zietsman, G., Martin, R.O., Cunningham, S.J., McKechnie, A.E. and Hockey, P.A.R. 2016. Behavioural responses to heat in desert birds: implications for predicting vulnerability to climate warming. Climate Change Responses 3: 9.

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


Cunningham, S.J., Martin, R.O., and Hockey, P.A.R. 2015. Can behaviour buffer the impacts of climate change on an arid-zone bird? Ostrich: Journal of African Ornithology 86(1&2): 119-126. doi:10.2989/00306525.2015.1016469

Martin, R.O., Cunningham S.J. & Hockey P. A.R. 2015. Elevated temperatures drive fine-scale patterns of habitat use in a savannah bird community. Ostrich: Journal of African Ornithology 86(1&2): 127-135.

Regnard, G.L., Boyes, R.S., Martin, R.O., Hitzeroth, I.I. & Rybicki, E.P. 2015. Beak and feather disease viruses circulating in Cape parrots (Poicephalus robustus) in South Africa. Archives of Virology 160(1):47-54.

Regnard, G.L., Boyes, R.S., Martin, R.O., Hitzeroth, I.I., Rybicki, E.P.. 2015. Beak and feather disease virus: correlation between viral load and clinical signs in wild Cape parrots (Poicephalus robustus) in South Africa. Archives of Virology 160(1):339-344.


Martin, R.O.
, Gilardi J.D., Johnson, R., Kariuki Ndang'ang'a, P., Fotso, R. C., Drori, O., & Perrin, M. 2014. Grey parrot Psittacus harvesting for conservation must have a robust scientific basis: Commentary on Tamungang et al. (2013). 2014. Grey parrot Psittacus harvesting for conservation must have a robust scientific basis: International Journal of Biodiversity and Conservation, 6(11), 750–753. doi:10.5897/IJBC2013.0569

Martin, R.O., Koeslag, A., Curtis, O., Amar, A. 2014. Fidelity at the frontier: divorce and dispersal in a newly colonized raptor population. Animal Behaviour 93:59–68.

Martin, R.O., Perrin M.R., Boyes R.S., Abebe Y.D., Annorbah N.D., Asamoah A., Bizimana D., Bobo K.S., Bunbury N., Brouwer J., Diop M.S., Ewnetu M., Fotso R.C., Garteh J., Hall P., Holbech L.H., Madindou I.R., Maisels F., Mokoko J., Mulwa R., Reuleaux A., Symes C., Tamungang S., Taylor S., Valle S., Waltert M., Wondafrash M. 2014. Research and conservation of the larger parrots of Africa and Madagascar: a review of knowledge gaps and opportunities. Ostrich, 85(3), 205–233. doi:10.2989/00306525.2014.948943

Martin, R.O., Sebele, L., Koeslag, A., Curtis, O., Abadi, F., Amar, A.. 2014. Phenological shifts assist colonisation of a novel environment in a range expanding raptor. Oikos 123:1457–1468.

Roberts, M.H., Martin, R.O., Beckerman, A.P., Williams, S.R. 2014. Occupation rates of artificial and restored natural nest cavities by yellow-shouldered Amazons. Conservation Evidence 11:39–42.


Cunningham, S.J., Martin, R.O., Hojem, C.L. & Hockey, P.A.R. 2013. Temperatures in excess of critical thresholds threaten nestling growth and survival in a rapidly-warming arid savanna: a study of common fiscals.  PLOS One 8:e74613.
Martin, R.O. 2013. The parrots of Africa: What we know, what we don't, and why it matters. PsittaScene 25.3:4–7.


du Plessis, K.L., Martin, R.O., Hockey, P.A.R., Cummingham, S.J. & Ridley, A.R. 2012. The costs of keeping cool in a warming world: implications of high temperatures for foraging, thermoregulation and body condition of an arid-zone bird. Global Change Biology 18:3063-3070.