I am getting asked this lots at the moment, so here's my attempt to summarise it as briefly as possible.
This year I will be working with Dr Phil Battley at Ecology Group at Massey, investigating aspects of plumage in migratory shorebirds, particularly Godwits. For birds plumages serve crucial physiological and social roles. In addition to enabling flight, feathers aid thermoregulation and act as an important signalling agent. The signal that a bird’s plumage provides can tell another bird about its sex, condition, social status or identity, but a problem with feathers is that they wear out, becoming degraded over time. This is particularly the case for birds that have long-haul migratory flights to their breeding grounds.
This year I will be working with Phil to investigate the role melanins play in plumages of migratory shorebirds. I will study how globally-migrating shorebirds cope with the limitations of their multi-purpose coat, by investigating the roles of melanin levels (which colour and strengthen feathers) and feather wear in shaping the visual signals of the breeding plumage. Here’s some of my first photos of these amazing birds.
This week I have had a couple of days out at Foxton Estuary carrying out core sampling of the inter-tidal flat, collecting samples of invertebrates that are possible parts of the Godwits diets. The work is part Jesse Conklin’s PhD research (the chemist in me always wants to write pHD!). Phil is Jesse's supervisor, hence my link. It’s great being out in the field, surrounded by amazing birds. I’m loving it.