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Alice Risely

Alice RiselyPhD student
Deakin University
Australia

Find Alice on Twitter @AliceRisely

Involved with the BOU as:
Ordinary member

BOU member since: 2013

Why are you a member of the BOU?
I first joined the BOU as an early career researcher in 2013 so that I could attend the annual conference on ‘Avian demography in a changing world’. Afterwards I applied and was awarded the BOU Career Development Bursary to conduct research on migrant wintering ecology, which I happily published in the BOU journal Ibis. The BOU bursary and publication helped me get a PhD in Australia studying migratory waders which I’m currently completing, and I now follow the BOU twitter feed, blogs and journal to keep up to date with all the current ornithological research from the other side of the world!

What do you enjoy most about your involvement with the BOU?
Since I am now based in Australia I don’t get to attend the great conferences and meetings organised by the BOU right now, but I still feel part of the BOU community online. The BOU does a great job of bringing together the most interesting avian research around the world and really helps me keep up to date!

Tell us a bit more about the project for which you received BOU funding?
The BOU bursary I was awarded contributed towards a long-term project investigating Whinchat ecology in their Nigerian non-breeding grounds, one of the very few looking at migrant ecology in Africa. I wanted to find out whether individual condition and status on their wintering territories affected their spring departure date, and whether they stayed on their territory to fatten up for migration, and to what extent. You can read more about it here

What is your most memorable bird-y experience?
I had a very surreal moment in Nigeria when I was in the field, when I looked up to see the sky blackened out with possibly thousands of migrating raptors of all kinds of species. I stared up for a long time at the circling mass of birds, telling myself I shouldn’t forget that moment!

What do you predict to be the future big research areas in ornithology?
I’m a bit biased since I study disease dynamics, but I think we are only just beginning to realise the importance of parasites and infections on not only regulating populations, but also influencing community dynamics and ecosystem functioning. We know disease was one of the strongest selection forces in humans before modern medicine (and still is in some regions), yet we still have limited understanding of its effects and relationships in wild animals.

What would you say to anyone considering research in ornithology?
Go for it! Ornithology is a welcoming field with lots of opportunities for field, lab and modelling work. Get funding to go to conferences, pay attention to the subjects and researchers you find most interesting, then read the discussion sections of their latest research papers to find out their recommendations for future research (then email them to ask for a project 🙂 )

If you could visit anywhere in the world, that you haven’t yet been to, where would it be and why?
I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska to see the teeming wildlife which flocks (and swims and runs) there for the spring and summer.

What are the big conservation challenges in the next decade?
Conserving wild habitats in the face of population expansion is the obvious big one. However, illegal trafficking and destruction of wildlife is now reaching huge proportions and threatening many species and ecosystems. In addition, wildlife disease epidemics are increasing, partly due to increased human-wildlife contact, but also because changes in ecological functioning are making wildlife more vulnerable disease outbreaks. For example, introduced parasites are threating to wipe out many bird species in Hawaii and Galapagos at the moment, and controlling the spread of amphibian chytrid fungus is one of the most urgent conservation issues in the world right now.

What are your interests outside the world of ornithology?
When I’m not working on my PhD I can usually be found trying to surf or out swing dancing!

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