Research Associates

Dr Martim Pinheiro de Melo

Dr Martim Pinheiro de Melo
MSc (UCT); PhD (Edinburgh)


Martim has been a keen birder ever since he can remember and a ringer since his early teens. He completed his Biology degree at the University of Lisbon, working on the wintering ecology of common cranes (Grus grus) for his final year project. During 1996-97 he was a volunteer for a UNDP project on the island of São Tomé and assisted with the implementation of rural associations and this triggered a long-lasting interest in the birds of the Gulf of Guinea. That same year, Martim participated in a study of the seabird communities of the islands with Rita Covas and Luis Monteiro. He also worked closely with official entities and NGOs linked to the environment, which culminated in a weeklong forum and book on ‘development and environment on São Tomé and Príncipe’.

In 1998, Martim enrolled for the Conservation Biology MSc at the FitzPatrick Institute and worked on the genetic differentiation of the grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus) population from Príncipe Island, under the supervision of Peter Ryan and Colleen O’Ryan (Department of Molecular Biology, UCT). This was followed with a PhD on bird speciation in the Gulf of Guinea at the University of Edinburgh under the supervision of Peter Jones.

After a two-year post-doc at the CEFE-CNRS (Montpellier, France) looking at the relationship between host genetic diversity, parasite load and immune response, Martim returned to the Percy FitzPatrick as a CoE post-doctoral research fellow. Here he will be working on two projects: i) the genomics of two adaptive bird radiations: the Gulf of Guinea seedeaters and the Tristan buntings (with Peter Ryan and Paulette Bloomer); and ii) speciation processes in the highland forests of Africa, focusing on the afromontane centres that have been little or not studied at all: Angola, Mozambique, Cameroon/Nigeria (with Peter Ryan).

Research interests

Martim is broadly interested in identifying the factors that drive population divergence, and in establishing the link between micro- and macroevolution, i.e., between adaptation and speciation. To address this problem, he uses a combination of ecological, morphological, behavioural and molecular data together with field experiments. Martim has pursued these interests by focusing on the study of ecology and evolution in island systems. Islands offer peculiar situations that can be used fruitfully to understand the role of genetic variation and gene flow (or the lack of it) in adaptation and speciation. Additionally, he recently became interested in the role of parasites in evolution. All of the above research lines feed into Martim’s long-standing and active interest in conservation by allowing him to investigate the potential of organisms to adapt to human-altered environments.

Research programmes

Systematics & Biogeography

Recent peer-reviewed publications


Cáceres, A., Melo, M., Barlow, J., Cardoso, P., Maiato, F. & Mills, M.S.L. (2015). Threatened birds of the Angolan central escarpment: distribution and response to habitat change at Kumbira forest. Oryx 49: 727-734.

Mills, M.S.L. & Melo, M. (2015). As Aves Comuns de Luanda / Common Birds of Luanda. AvesAngola, Luanda & Birds Angola,

Lauron, E.J., Loiseau, C., Bowie, R.C., Spicer, G.S., Smith, T.B., Melo, M. & Sehgal, R.N. (2015). Coevolutionary patterns and diversification of avian malaria parasites in African sunbirds (Family Nectariniidae). Parasitology 142: 635-647.


Faria, R., Renaut, S., Galindo, J., Pinho, C., Melo-Ferreira, J., Melo, M., Jones, F., Salzburger, W., Schluter, D. & Butlin, R. (2014) Advances in Ecological Speciation: an integrative approach. Molecular Ecology 23: 513-521.


Cáceres, A., Santos, P., Tchalo, F., Mills, M. & Melo, M. (2013) Human use of natural resources and the conservation of the Afromontane forest in Mount Moco, Angola. Journal of Sustainable Development in Africa 15: 91-101.

Mills, M.S.L., Melo, M. & Vaz, A. (2013). The Namba mountains: new hope for Afromontaine forest birds in Angola. Bird Conservation International 23:159-167

Mills, M.S.L. & Melo, M. (2013) The Checklist of the Birds of Angola / A Lista das Aves de Angola. AvesAngola, Luanda & Birds Angola, Available here or as a Kindle™ book.


Dallimer, M., Parnell, M., Bicknell, J.E. & Melo, M. (2012). The importance of novel and agricultural habitats for the avifauna of an oceanic island. Journal for Nature Conservation 20:191-199.


Melo, M., Bowie R. C. K., Voelker G., Dallimer, M., Collar, N. J. & Jones, P. J. (2011). Multiple lines of evidence support the recognition of a very rare bird species: the Principe thrush. Journal of Zoology 282:120-129.

Melo, M., Warren, B.H. & Jones, P.J. (2011). Rapid parallel evolution of aberrant traits in the diversification of the Gulf of Guinea white-eyes (Aves, Zosteropidae). Molecular Ecology 20:4953-4967.

Mills, M.S.L., Olmos, F., Melo, M. & Dean, W.R.J. (2011). Mount Moco: its importance to the conservation of Swierstra’s Francolin Pternistis swierstrai and the Afromontane avifauna of Angola. Bird Conservation International 21:119-133.

Mills, M.S.L., Melo, M. & Vaz, A. (2011). Black-tailed Cisticola Cisticola melanurus in eastern Angola: behavioural notes and the first photographs and sound-recordings. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 18:193-198.

Mills, M.S.L., Melo, M., Borrow, N. & Vaz Pinto, P. (2011). The endangered Braun’s Bushshrike Laniarius brauni: a summary. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 18:193-198.


Dallimer, M. & Melo, M. (2010). Rapid decline of the endemic giant land snail Archachatina bicarinata on the island of Príncipe, Gulf of Guinea. Oryx 44:213-218.

Dallimer, M., Melo, M., Collar, N.J. & Jones, P.J. (2010). The Príncipe Thrush Turdus xanthorhynchus: a newly split, ‘Critically Endangered’, forest flagship species. Bird Conservation International 20:375-381.

Melo, M., Bowie, R.C.K. , Voelker, G. , Dallimer, M., Collar, N.J. & Jones, P.J. (2010). Multiple lines of evidence support the recognition of a very rare bird species: the Príncipe thrush. Journal of Zoology 282:120-129.