Miqkayla was born and bred in Mitchell's Plain, one of Cape Town's largest townships, a community heavily impacted by gangsterism and drug abuse. Despite this she was fortunate enough to attend Mondale High, one of the best schools in the area. She has always been interested in animals and nature but it was in her high school biology class where she realized her love for animals and the science of life. Life Sciences was the subject she always looked forward to and it was the subject she excelled at most in high school. She was not fortunate enough to experience all the biodiversity Cape Town has to offer but was a hard-working student and knew that education would be the key to success.
Miqkayla didn't have a favourite animal or plant when she started at UCT as an undergraduate but if there was one lecture she will never forget, a lecture that she felt would define her course as a biologist, it was a lecture on social behaviour in animals by animal behavioural ecologist, Prof. Justin O'Riain. She has always been interested in animal behaviour and learning that there was a field of research for this really got her excited about her time here at UCT. Her first experience doing hands-on research in the field of animal behaviour when she undertook the Red-winged starling project during her honours year at UCT. The project entitled “Junking a junk-food diet” focused on how the abundance of anthropogenic food here in campus during weekdays enables the starlings here to allocate less time in search for food compared to weekends. Working on this project in the FitzPatrick Institute has slowly sparked her interest in birds.
This led to Miqkayla registering at the beginning of 2018 for a Masters on the Red-winged starling, supervised by Arjun Amar and co-supervised by Susie Cunningham and Petra Sumasgutner. Miqkayla upgraded to a PhD at the beginning of 2020. This project has two parts, firstly a focus on elevated temperatures and its constraints on active time spent foraging and if this affects body-mass gain. More specifically Miqkayla will investigate whether anthropogenic food abundance can lessen the effect of elevated temperatures on body condition. Secondly, she will investigate the effects of diet: both junk and healthy food, on the foraging budget and provisioning during the chick-rearing period.
So if you see a girl walking around on campus looking up into the air, it’s probably Miqkayla, come say hi.
Global change and urban birds: impacts of heat stress and junk food on foraging and body condition in red-winged starlings. Supervisors: A/Prof. Arjun Amar, Dr Susie Cunningham and Dr Petra Sumasgutner