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Plenary Speakers

Prof. Dominique G. Homberger

Dominique Homberger is a distinguished Alumni Professor in Biological Sciences at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge where she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in vertebrate anatomy, 3D imaging and animation, and environmental issues. Her research program investigates the functional morphology and biomechanics of vertebrates from lampreys to sharks, and from alligators, birds, and mammals to human beings by using a variety of methods, including 3D modeling and animation. In pursuit of her special interest in the evolution of parrots and cockatoos and to complement her functional-morphological data on their feeding and vocal apparatus, she has traveled widely in Australia and South America and, to a lesser extent, in other southern continents to observe the ecology and feeding adaptations of wild psittaciform species in their natural habitat. She has published extensively in reviewed articles and book chapters, two research monographs, and five textbooks in vertebrate anatomy. She has served on numerous editorial boards of journals. She is the current president (2018-2022) of the International Ornithologists’ Union (IOU) and presides over the 28th International Ornithological Congress in 2022. She served as the IOU’s permanent secretary from 1998 until 2018. She is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Association for Anatomy (AAA), the American Ornithological Society (AOS), the International Ornithologists’ Union (IOU), and the Association for Women in Science (AWIS). She is also an Honorary Member of the Linnaean Society of New York.

Prof. Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan

Professor Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan is a world renown palaeo-biologist at the University of Cape Town. Her research on the microscopic structure of mineralised tissues has led to a better understanding of the biology of a variety of extinct animals, such as, dinosaurs (including birds), the flying reptiles, and the mammal-like reptiles (therapsids). She is the Honorary President of BirdLife SA, former President of the Association of South African Women in Science and Engineering (SA WISE), former Deputy President of the Academy of Science of South Africa and has served as Director of Iziko Museums Natural History Collections. She has published extensively - both in high-ranking international scientific journals as well as, in the popular press, and her free online MOOC on “Extinctions - Past and Present” ranks in the Top 50 worldwide. In addition, she has authored two academic books, The Microstructure of Dinosaur Bone (Johns Hopkins University Press, USA, 2005) and "The Forerunners of Mammals: Radiation. Histology. Biology" (Indiana University Press, USA, 2012), as well as four popular level books: "Famous Dinosaurs of Africa" (RandomHouseStruik, SA, 2008); “Fossils for Africa” (Cambridge University Press, 2014); Dinosaurs of Africa (RandomHouseStruik, 2021); Dinosaurs and other Prehistoric Life (Dorling Kindersley, UK, 2021).

Claire Spottiswoode

Claire Spottiswoode is a South African ornithologist and evolutionary ecologist working jointly at the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, and at the University of Cambridge. She is fascinated by species interactions such as parasitism and mutualism. Her two main areas of research are coevolution between between brood-parasitic birds (particularly cuckoo finches and honeyguides) and their hosts, in Zambia; and mutualism between honeyguides and the human honey-hunters with whom they cooperate to gain access to bees’ nests, in Mozambique and elsewhere in eastern Africa. Both projects involve close cooperation with rural communities, and rely on their local field knowledge and skill.

Dr Hazell Shokellu Thompson

Hazell Shokellu Thompson is a Sierra Leonean Environmental Consultant and Conservation Biologist with more than 30 years’ experience in NGO capacity development, teaching and research in ecology, ornithology and conservation. As a lecturer in Zoology at the University of Sierra Leone, he designed and introduced the first conservation biology course into the curriculum of any University in Sierra Leone; and conducted the first comprehensive study of the rare White-necked Picathartes (Picathartes gymnocephalus) in West Africa, a species he has spent a lifetime trying to conserve. He served as Regional Director of BirdLife International’s Africa Programme based in Nairobi, Kenya for 10 years, leading and supporting a conservation programme spanning 23 countries. Formerly, Global Director, Partnership, Capacity and Communities, BirdLife International, he was responsible for capacity development and coordination in a unique partnership of 117 NGOs across the world and served as interim CEO from 2014 - 2015. Currently, Visiting Lecturer in Conservation Biology at the A.P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute, University of Jos, he is also Chairman of the Better Earth Foundation that promotes environmental awareness and conservation action at a local level and a lifelong member and supporter of the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone.

Prof. Irene Tieleman

Irene Tieleman is a professor in animal ecology at the University of Groningen. Since her studies (at Groningen, Ohio State University, University of Missouri-St. Louis, Max Planck Institute and many field work institutions), Irene Tieleman has investigated the match between bird and environment, mixing her interests in ecology and geography. She first studied physiology, behaviour and life history in birds from tropical, temperate and desert environments in Africa, America, Europe and the Middle East. Then, realizing the potentially fundamental role that microbes have in shaping bird traits, she initiated pioneering studies of host-microbiome associations and microbiome-mediated functions of bird traits. One of her focal areas in recent years includes annual cycles of adaptive traits of birds in relation to seasonality and predictability of the environment. She is particularly fascinated by rain-driven African systems. She initiated a long-term collaborative research program on grassland birds in Kenya (starting 2008), and has become involved in related research in western and southern Africa as well. Capacity building with local students is one of the inspirational forces that drive her research in Africa. For her work, she was awarded multiple prizes and personal grants, as well as having been elected member to scientific societies.

Prof. Juliet Vickery

Following a PhD at Oxford, a Post doc at the University of East Anglia and research posts at Scottish Natural Heritage, University of Edinburgh, Juliet led a research teams in two conservation NGOS, the British Trust for Ornithology, focusing on the ecology and conservation of farmland birds, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, working on globally threatened sites and species and migrant birds. Her research has focussed on ‘diagnosing causes of species decline and developing policy or practical solutions to stem or reverse those declines’ . She is currently CEO of the British Trust for Ornithology, a UK-based environmental NGO representing a unique partnership between citizen scientists and professional staff. It delivers long term nationwide data on population trends of breeding and wintering birds, alongside research to help understand drivers of those trends and seeking to engage and enthuse volunteer observers. Juliet also holds an Honorary Research Fellowship in the Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge and an Honorary Professorship at the School of Biological Sciences at the University of East Anglia. Juliet is currently President of the British Ornithologists’ Union and on the Council of the Cambridge Conservation initiative.

Prof. Martine Maron

Martine Maron is Professor of Environmental Management in the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science at The University of Queensland, Australia. Her research group works on problems in environmental policy and conservation ecology, particularly the conservation and recovery of Australia’s threatened birds and woodland bird assemblages. A focus of her bird conservation research has been the role of the native but despotic noisy miner, which acts as a key threatening process to dozens of other bird species across the eastern third of the Australian continent. Her research has explored the way in which human-induced landscape changes favour noisy miners at the expense of others, and options for cost-effective management to benefit woodland birds. Martine also works with governments around Australia and the world to improve conservation and impact mitigation policy and practice, particularly relating to deforestation and biodiversity offsetting. She has advised the UN Convention to Combat Desertification and the Convention on Biological Diversity on judicious use of net outcome approaches in international policy. Martine chairs the IUCN’s Impact Mitigation and Ecological Compensation Thematic Group and is currently President of BirdLife Australia.

Prof. Tom Martin

Professor Martin has spent his career focused on trying to understand how and why coexisting and geographically distant species differ. His philosophy, that he encourages in his students, is to know the literature and theory as broadly as possible and spend significant time in the field to assess when observations do not match conventional wisdom to suggest new hypotheses. Comparative experimental tests across species are then used to test hypotheses. He has published slightly more than 200 papers with an h-index of 89. He was editor-in-chief of the journal formerly known as The Auk, now Ornithology, where he implemented the first editorial board and together with the board changed the design of the journal. He served as President of the Cooper Ornithological Society. He was elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Ornithologists’ Union, as well as Honorary Member of the Cooper Ornithological Society. He received the Elliot Coues Award (+ medal), and the Alden and Loye Miller Award (+ medal) among other honors. He established and conducted research at field sites in Argentina, Venezuela, South Africa, Malaysia and the USA to allow examination of geographical variation in life history of birds. He personally trained more than 600 starting field students at these sites, including nationals of the country where work was being conducted. Many of these have gone on to highly successful careers in science. Ultimately, he finds the natural history and evolutionary ecology of birds to be infinitely fascinating.

Dr. Xingfeng Si

Dr. Xingfeng Si is a Research Professor at the School of Ecological and Environmental Sciences, East China Normal University, Shanghai, China. He received his Ph.D. degree from Zhejiang University in 2014. He is principally a community ecologist and biogeographer, with special interests in bird diversity and conservation. Using functional and phylogenetic approaches, he seeks to understand community assembly of island faunas, biodiversity changes after habitat fragmentation, and human impacts on biodiversity at a large scale. He has published more than 40 original papers in the fields of island biogeography, community ecology, and conservation biology. He is an editorial board member of Avian Research, Biological Conservation, Journal of Animal Ecology, and Zoological Research. He received Cheng Tso-Hsin Young Ornithologist Prize in 2017.

Daniel Cadena

Daniel Cadena is a Professor in the Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas and Dean of the School of Sciences at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia. As a researcher, he is most interested in questions about biogeography and speciation, being especially intrigued about the causes of high tropical diversity at various levels, from genes to clades and ecosystems. He likes to pursue his interests from a wide variety of perspectives combining field, lab, museum, and computational work, and has an increasing interest in outreach activities promoting the importance and value of birds, natural history collections, and science in general to society. Main research areas in his lab currently focus on (1) natural selection and adaptation of organismal traits to varying environments and the link between adaptation and speciation along elevational and other environmental gradients, (2) the ecology and evolution of avian migration, (3) comparative phylogeography as a tool to understand the history of Neotropical diversification, and (4) the link between evolutionary/historical processes of speciation, extinction and immigration, and the structure of ecological assemblages and spatial patterns of species diversity. Professor Cadena is a member of the National Academy of Sciences of Colombia and a Fellow and Elective Councillor of the American Ornithological Society.