Alexander Kirschel

Position: Associate Professor and Vice Chair of Department of Biological Sciences

Head of Behavioural Ecology and Evolution Lab.

Alex has a Ph.D from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), and Bachelors and Master’s degrees from University College London. 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. His research transcends the fields of ecology, evolutionary biology, and animal behavior, 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.

 

 

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Simona Secomandi, Ph.D.

Position: Postdoctoral Researcher

Simona joins us after completing her PhD at the University of Milan where she focused on bird genomics. She exploited the potential of the newest sequencing technologies for de novo genome assemblies, comparative genomics and pangenomics in the framework of the Vertebrate Genomes Project (VGP). Simona has assembled 6 chromosome-level bird genomes, including Lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni) and barn swallow (Hirundo rustica). Simona brings her extensive skills in bioinformatics and avian genomics to the project "Leveraging ancestry to investigate the genomics of song and colour in birds" among others.

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.

Position: Postdoctoral Researcher

Thomas recently rejoined the lab as a postdoc, 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. 

Matteo Sebastianelli

Position: Ph.D. Candidate

After completing an MRes at Imperial College London, Matteo Sebastianelli joined the Behavioural Ecology and Evolution lab at University of Cyprus, where he currently studies the genetic and environmental drivers of song variation in a species complex whose songs are innate: the Pogoniulus tinkerbirds. Specifically, he aims to understand what environmental factors affect variation of song pitch and pace as well as identify genomic regions that underpin such characters in tinkerbirds. His first paper from his thesis work was published in Bioacoustics (Sebastianelli et al. 2021) and he also published a paper on the use of tape lures in illegal bird trapping in Cyprus (Sebastianelli et al. 2020, Biology Letters). Matteo is also involved in studies aimed at understanding the extent of competition between the endemic Cyprus warbler (Curruca melanothorax) and the Sardinian warbler (C. melanocephala), with the latter being a recent colonizer of Cyprus (see Papanikolas et al. 2021, Avian Conservation and Ecology).

 

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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) and contributed towards a GWAS on carotenoid conversion in tinkerbird feather colour (Kirschel et al. 2020, Molecular Ecology).

 

 

Michaella Moysi

Position: Ph.D. Candidate

Michella 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. 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

LAB ALUMNI

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 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.