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Alexander Kirschel

Position: Associate Professor and Head of Behavioural Ecology and Evolution Lab.

Alex has a Ph.D from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), and Bachelor's and Master’s degrees from UCL. He also worked as a postdoc at UCLA and a Marie Curie Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, and has been an instructor at the AP Leventis Ornithological Research Institute in Jos, Nigeria (2018-2019) and for the Tropical Biology Association (TBA) on their field course in Botswana (2019). His primary research focus is on competitive and reproductive interactions within and among species with most recent work focusing on speciation genomics. His research transcends the fields of ecology, evolutionary biology, and animal behaviour, and he has extensive experience in bioacoustics, movement ecology, remote sensing and GIS, as well as in population genomics and phylogenomics. Other avenues of research include avian disease, mosquito vector-borne zoonoses, and biomechanics.

 

 

Loïs Rancilhac, Ph.D.

Position: Postdoctoral Researcher

Loïs joins the lab as a postdoc, after having completed a PhD at the University of Braunschweig (Germany) and a first postdoc at the University of Uppsala (Sweden). His research focuses on using phylogeographic, phylogenetic and population genetic approaches to understand how genetic diversity arises within species, and how new species appear, taking advantage of High Throughput Sequencing methods. He is also interested in investigating the role of morphological divergence in promoting speciation in birds. Loïs is taking part in various genomic analyses of tinkerbirds, but he also works on the speciation genomics of wagtails (genus Motacilla) and crossbills (genus Loxia), as well as various other models (amphibians, reptiles, mammals). More generally, he is a very keen naturalist and wildlife photographer, interested in the natural history of all living things.

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Samuel Jones, Ph.D.

Position: Postdoctoral Researcher

Sam recently joined the lab as a postdoc, having completed his PhD at Royal Holloway University and an MSc at Imperial College. His doctoral research focused on the mechanistic roles of physiology and behaviour in driving elevational distributions, and territorial behaviour of Catharus thrushes along on elevational gradient in Honduras. Sam has previously participated in tinkerbird fieldwork in Ethiopia in addition to a range of studies on both Neotropical and Afrotropical birds, and brings a wealth of expertise in ecology and behaviour to the team.

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Thomas Hadjikyriakou, Ph.D.

Thomas rejoined the lab as a postdoc in 2022, having previously completely his PhD here. His doctoral research focused on the breeding success, wintering ecology and migratory behaviour of Eleonora's Falcons. He used the latest technologies in his research, including drones to monitor nests, photogrammetry to identify suitable nesting conditions, and GPS/GSM transmitters to track migratory routes and phenology on wintering grounds. Thomas has contributed his expertise towards various studies in the lab and continues working with us as an associated researcher.

Matteo Sebastianelli, Ph.D.

Position: Postdoctoral Researcher

Matteo Sebastianelli joined the Behavioural Ecology and Evolution lab at University of Cyprus for his Ph.D., after completing an MRes at Imperial College London, and is now a postdoc in the lab. For his Ph.D. he studied the genetic and environmental drivers of song variation in a species complex whose songs are innate: the Pogoniulus tinkerbirds. His first paper from his thesis work was published in Bioacoustics (Sebastianelli et al. 2021), with the second on continent-wide patterns of song variation in Ecology Letters (Sebastianelli et al.2022). He also published a paper on the use of tape lures in illegal bird trapping in Cyprus (Sebastianelli et al. 2020, Biology Letters). He continues to investigate the genomic basis of rhythm in birds with innate song.

 

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Sifiso Lukhele

Position: Ph.D. Candidate

Sifiso's PhD research focuses on the role of plumage coloration, habitat and relative density on the extent of hybridisation in tinkerbirds. He is also investigating the genes underpinning feather colour differences. Sifiso has published a paper on nest provisioning in tinkerbirds (Lukhele et al. 2021, African Journal of Ecology), innate song in tinkerbirds (Lukhele et al. 2022, Wilson J Ornithol.) and contributed towards a GWAS on carotenoid conversion in tinkerbird feather colour (Kirschel et al. 2020, Molecular Ecology), and towards the continent-wide study of song variation (Sebastianelli et al. 2022).

 

 

Michaella Moysi

Position: Ph.D. Candidate

Michaella obtained her MSc from the University of Reading. Michaella is now studying patterns of endemism in birds breeding in Cyprus. She is exploring the extent of differentiation of  species breeding in Cyprus with their counterparts on the continent, and other islands in the Mediterranean, as well as the genetic diversity and structure of breeding populations in Cyprus using population genomics approaches. Michaella has also led our molecular labwork and contributed towards several papers in the lab.

 

 

Bridget Ogolowa

Position: Ph.D. Candidate

Bridget completed her MSc at APLORI in Nigeria. For her PhD research she is studying the demographic history and phylogenomics of tinkerbirds, and uses bioinformatics and genomics in her research. Bridget is currently preparing a manuscript for publication on her PhD research focusing on reconstructing the demographic history of  a widespread African bird, yellow-rumped tinkerbird. She has also contributed towards other studies in the lab. 

 

 

Stacey de Souza

Position: PhD Student

Stacey joins us from South Africa where she completed a BSc at University of Pretoria and a MSc at University of Witwatersrand where she studied hybridisation in ducks (de Souza et al. 2019, Ostrich). Stacey is currently working on bioinformatics pipelines for variant discovery and demographic inference in the lab, with the aim of applying these methods to studies on tinkerbirds for her PhD research. 

 

 

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Nathalie Boutros

Position: PhD Student

Nathalie joins the lab from Lebanon where she obtained a BSc at the Lebanese University and an MSc at the American University of Beirut. Her master’s thesis focused on “The reproductive characteristics of common marine fishes in the Lebanese coastal fishery”. Her love for ornithology and field work drove her to start her PhD research in our lab. Nathalie has an interest in avian biogeography of the Eastern Mediterranean region.

 

 

Longji Bako

Position: PhD Student

Longji Aaron Bako joins the lab from the A.P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI), University of Jos, Nigeria where he got his MSc in conservation biology and has been working as a Research Associate and Lecturer. His thesis was on the effects of farming intensification on the abundance and species richness of pollinators of vegetable crops. Longji is a former Birdlife International, Cambridge, UK intern under the Partnership, Communities and Capacity Development (PCCD) and Conservation Evidence, Zoology Department, Cambridge University, UK. He is also an active research team member of the Nigerian Bird Atlas Project (NiBAP). Longji is interested in studying how anthropogenic activities and associated land-use change affect birds and biodiversity at community and species levels. 

 

 

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Christos Nikiforou

Position: Special Scientist

Christos graduated from the University of Cyprus with a BSc in Biological Sciences. He investigated breeding birds of Cyprus and the genetic divergence between island and mainland populations of various bird species. He then completed his MSc at the University of Glasgow, UK, in Infection Biology with a specialization in parasitology where he studied the transport activity of the nucleoside transporters of the Toxoplasma gondii parasite. He is now responsible for handling various samples acquired from the field and performing various genetic and genomics lab techniques for further analysis.

 

 

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Andreas Nathanael

Position: MSc student

Andreas joined our lab in September 2022. For his Masters thesis he studies an invasive species, the common myna (Acridotheres tristis) which recently arrived in Cyprus. The purpose of his work is to evaluate the distribution of the species across the island, identify and apply optimal control methods and explore the origin of common myna individuals in Cyprus through genetic analyses.

 

 

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LAB ALUMNI

Simona Secomandi, Ph.D.

Simona was a postdoc in the lab who brought a wealth of expertise in genome assembly and bioinformatics and worked on the demographic history of several species, including tinkerbirds. She participated on the Song Gene project in helping to identify genes functioning in vocal rhythm in birds. Simona is now a postdoc at Rockefeller University, working with Erich Jarvis.

Nikolas Papanikolas, Ph.D.

Ph.D. defence May 2022

For his PhD research, Nikolas studied the interactions among breeding Curruca warblers in Cyprus. His first paper from his thesis work was recently published in Avian Conservation and Ecology (Papanikolas et al. 2021). Nikolas continues to work with the lab as an associated researcher as will be aiming to publish more of his thesis work showing how the endemic breeding bird, Cyprus warbler, has been affected by the colonisation of Cyprus by Sardinian warbler.

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Chryso Pallari, Ph.D.

Ph.D. defence October 2021

Chryso investigated the presence of West Nile Virus in Cyprus, incorporating data from the primary host, birds, and the vector, mosquitoes. She recently published the second chapter of her PhD (Pallari et al. 2022, Acta Tropica). Chryso is now a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Nicosia.

 

 

Martin Hellicar, Ph.D.

Ph.D. defence May 2019

Martin's PhD research focused on the effects of livestock grazing and farmland practices on avian breeding communities in Cyprus. He recently published the third and final chapter of his PhD (Hellicar and Kirschel 2022, Journal for Nature Conservation). Martin is the Director of BirdLife Cyprus and has also published the Cyprus Important Bird Areas (IBA) Book.

 

 

Emmanuel Nwankwo, Ph.D.

Ph.D. defence May 2018

Emmanuel studied  interactions in Pogoniulus tinkerbirds, including the role of song, morphology, and genetic differentiation in determine the extent of competition, range overlap, and hybridisation among related species. He used genomic analysis methods to identify genes underlying phenotypic traits. He went on to a lecturer position at Michael Okpara University in Nigeria and is now embarking on a postdoctoral position at Queen Mary University in London.

 

 

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