Anthony Lowney
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20112022

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Personal profile

Overview

I am a lecturer in Zoology with a focus on behavioural ecology, with an interest in positive interactions. I also have an interest in conservation and this has led me to undertake research in The Gambia, the Philippines, South Africa, and more recently Chad. Initially, my research started closer to home and my undergraduate thesis focussed on the impacts of anthropogenic activities on a population of protected red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris). For my MSc, I spent four months in the Philippines looking for one of the rarest birds in the world, the Isabela oriole (Oriolus isabellae). There was controversy regarding the taxonomic status of this rare species, with suggestion that the Isabela oriole and white-lored oriole (O. albiloris) should be classified as a single species. It is estimated that there are around 250 Isabela orioles left in the wild and this species was not seen at all between 1961 and 2003 meaning that it had been classified by the IUCN as Critically Endangered. To find such a rare bird involved camping and hiking through rainforests, for up to a month at a time. I was fortunate enough to find both species and subsequently carried out playback experiments revealing that they discriminate between each other’s calls. This provided further evidence that the orioles should remain separate species and with this, the Isabela oriole should maintain its critically endangered status. For my PhD, I investigated the importance of sociable weaver (Philetairus socius) colonies to the surrounding animal communities. Sociable weavers build large nesting colonies that are used by other species. Here I was looking at which species used these colonies, when they used them and how different species interacted when using a colony at the same time. The results from this research show that weaver colonies are an important resource, creating local biodiversity hot-spots and that strong associations with multiple taxonomic groups exist across the weaver’s entire range. Furthermore, interactions between species at colonies demonstrate costs and benefits for weavers and their close associates, suggesting that a complicated web of interactions allows predator and prey species to coexist.

Research interests

My current interests build upon the work I carried out during my PhD, incorporating this with the Kalahari Ecosystem Engineer Project (KEEP), a collaboration between multiple South African universities. The focus behind KEEP is to study the effects of climate change on all taxa within the Kalahari, including grasses, trees, invertebrates, right through to reptiles, birds, and mammals. Ecological studies on this scale are rarely undertaken instead, they tend to focus on a single species or pair-wise interactions. However, by having such a collaboration of specialised researchers we hope to expand the scope of this study and resolve ecological questions that would previously be difficult to answer. For example, we hope to understand which taxa provides a disproportionate number of resources, to determine which taxa are the most vulnerable to climate change, and which taxa will have the largest knock-on effects if it disappears from this ecosystem.

In the UK I am keen to see how rewilding projects will unfold. Particularly, how the reintroduction of ecosystem engineers may positively affect the rewilding process and particularly how they will affect the species richness, diversity, and movement of already established species.

Current teaching

  • Behavioural Ecology
  • Fundamental skills for Zoologists
  • Wildlife Management and Conservation Genetics
  • Field course

Creative works

  • Scientific adviser for National Geographic on Surviving the extremes of the Kalahari.
  • Scientific adviser for the BBC on Animals Behaving Badly feature of African pygmy. Falcons.
  • Scientific adviser on Africans wild roommates. A production by German broadcasters Bill Medienproduktion.
  • Featured on the CBBC program, Naomi’s nightmares of nature (Season 4; Episode 13).
  • South African Birdlife article: 2020. No, entry, southern ground-hornbills thwarted by terrapin shell.
  • Provided photos for various magazines, blogs, international websites, and international news outlets.

Previous positions

  • Post-doctoral research, University of Cape Town
  • Lecturer in Research Methods, Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT)

External positions and memberships

  • European Ornithologists Union
  • Society of Conservation Biology
  • Kalahari Endangered Ecosystem Project (KEEP)

Education/Academic qualification

Conservation Biology, PhD, University of Cape Town

20152019

Animal Behaviour, MSc (by Research), Manchester Metropolitan University

20112012

Animal Conservation, BSc (Hons), University of Cumbria

20082010

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