Climate change is one of the greatest current threats to global biodiversity. Because many desert species already live near the limits of their physiological tolerances, desert animal communities have the potential to act as early warning 'indicators' of the effects of climate change. The FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town, in collaboration with the University of Pretoria, spearheads an international collaboration of behavioural ecologists and ecophysiologists seeking to understand the likely impacts of climate change – particularly temperature rise - on desert bird communities. Our aim is to understand the mechanistic links between temperature and population processes. Specifically, we wish to understand how changes in temperature result in behavioural and physiological changes that have implications for individual survival, breeding success, and population persistence. In this talk I will present an overview of the “Hot Birds Research Project", including cutting edge results from our Kalahari research team.
Dr Susie Cunningham is a lecturer at the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Originally from New Zealand, Susie is co-PI of the Hot Birds Research Project, heading up the behavioural ecology branch of the project. She works in close collaboration with ecophysiologists Prof. Andrew McKechnie at the University of Pretoria, and Prof Blair Wolf at the University of New Mexico. Her main research focus is how thermoregulatory trade-offs affect the behaviour and breeding success of Kalahari birds.