Field trip to the Brecks, mussels, skate and more in your Zoology alumni newsletter...
Zoology alumni and friends
Welcome to our summer newsletter, where you will find novel
and exciting research stories, news about success of members of the Department,
a Q&A with a member of the Department working hard on coronavirus, and
details of two upcoming events aimed at our friends and alumni.
Breckland alumni outing: Saturday 4 September
We hope you will join us for this outing to the iconic
Cavenham Heath NNR, led by Professor Bill Sutherland.
Virtual lab tours: Saturday 13 November
Our first virtual lab tour, in April this year, was a great
success, enabling us to bring together both speakers and alumni from all over
the world to share ideas and insights about current research projects being
done in the Department. We have decided to do this again, with three new
scientists eager to talk about their research with you.
Best wishes to you all,
Director of Alumni Relations, Department of Zoology
Saturday 4 September 2021, 2pm GMT
Cavenham Heath is a National Nature Reserve between Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds. We are delighted that Professor Bill Sutherland, recently awarded a CBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List, will lead the trip – he lives nearby and knows the site well.
It is part of Breckland (named after breck – breaking ground for short-term growing of crops, which is then left after a few years). Breckland was one of the first areas in Britain cleared by humans and is open heathland now kept open by grazing. The site is famous for stone curlew who form a roost here in the autumn that we stand a good chance of seeing. Other regular birds include woodlark and stonechat. A group of red deer are regularly seen. We will walk down a sandy track (which was the main London to Norwich road at the time of the Peasant’s revolt) down to the river Lark then back through the woods (it will not be muddy).
We very much hope you will be able to join us.
Professor Bill Sutherland was awarded a CBE for his contribution to Conservation Evidence in the Queen's Birthday Honours List. Read more >
Professor Rebecca Kilner was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society. Read more >
Dr David Aldridge won Researcher of the Year, sponsored by AstraZeneca, at the Cambridge Independent's Science and Technology Awards 2021. Read more >
Dr Jane Goodall (PhD 1966) was awarded the Templeton Prize 'because her discoveries have profoundly altered the world’s view of animal intelligence and enriched our understanding of humanity in a way that is both humbling and exalting.' Read more >
What might we learn from the potential extinction of two Ethiopian
The White-tailed Swallow and the Ethiopian Bush-crow may be
the only warm-blooded species whose entire distribution is determined solely by
climate. A team led by Andrew Bladon, and including Paul Donald and
Rhys Green, has established that the very limited
distribution of these two species can be described by just two environmental
variables: maximum temperature and dry-season precipitation. Moreover, climate
change projections suggest both species will lose most of their climatically
suitable range in the next 50 years. Monitoring the fate of these species in relation
to the model predictions should provide vital clues about how climate change might
affect species' survival more generally.
Don’t move a mussel: the dangers of moving species around for conservation purposes
Freshwater mussels are often moved to new locations, either to boost their own populations or to
act as biological filters to improve water quality. A report, published
in Conservation Letters by David Aldridge and PhD students Josh Brian
and Isobel Ollard, shows that these relocations risk spreading pathogens, such
as gonad-eating worms. 'Think twice before
moving a species around' is the core message of this report: the risks may
be greater than the conservation benefits.
Where does the vertebrate jaw come from?
It has long been assumed that the vertebrate jaw evolved
from gill arches, but there is little fossil evidence to support this
hypothesis. A paper in Molecular Biology &
Evolution, by members of Andrew Gillis’ lab (including Christine Hirschberger
in her first first-author manuscript as a PhD student), argues that if jaws and
gills share an evolutionary history, they might also share genetic programmes
of embryonic development.
They showed that the little skate (Leucoraja
erinacea), which has retained a relatively simple jaw and gill arch
skeleton, has overwhelming similarities in the genes used to control the development
of its jaws and gills. This suggests that jaws might have derived from a gill arch-like
state and provides a genetic explanation for the similarities in jaw and gill
arch skeletal anatomy that have captured the imaginations of anatomists for
Q&A with Professor Derek Smith
Derek Smith is the Professor of Infectious Disease
Informatics and Director of the Centre of Pathogen Evolution. He and his group
are evolutionary biologists who study the raw and unadorned processes of natural
selection that fuel the battle between viruses and their hosts. They have been
working in the eye of the storm during the coronavirus pandemic. Why not let him
tell you more in this interview?
Roger Northfield, 1941–2021
We are sorry to announce that our former colleague Roger
Northfield died on 17 May 2021. Roger joined the
Department just one month after his 16th birthday, in 1956, as a Junior
Assistant. He soon became responsible for all laboratory insect cultures,
receiving the accolade 'best in his field' by the Department in 1969. He
spent many years providing technical assistance to several research labs in the
Department, and was the Chief Teaching Laboratory Technician from 1994 until
his retirement in 2007. Roger was a superb field naturalist and offered
friendly, willing, calm and effective support to staff and students alike.
George Salt was a pioneering entomologist, who – more or less single-handedly – created the scientific study of the ecology of insect parasitoids and their hosts, one of the most widespread and important relationships in the world. He spent 40 years in the Department, becoming Reader in Animal Ecology in 1965. He will be remembered by generations of students for his meticulous, crystal-clear dissection of the evolutionary battles fought between parasitoids and their hosts.
Read Adrian Friday’s biography to find out more about George's life, and his skills at calligraphy, at fighting off bandits in Colombia and at singing Austrian folk-songs in alpine huts to his own guitar accompaniment.
The Great Barrier Reef by Helen Scales and Lisk Feng
In this children’s book, vividly illustrated by Lisk Feng, Helen Scales (Part II 1998–9, PhD 2001–5) brings to life one of the great natural wonders of the world, its animal inhabitants and the people associated with it, and discusses what needs to be done to save it for the children of the future.
Hugh Cott prints available to buy
A range of art prints recreating the magnificent zoological illustrations of Hugh Bamford Cott, Strickland Curator 1938–67, are now available on the Curating Cambridge website. To receive a 10% discount on the new Cott prints and all other product ranges inspired by the University of Cambridge Museums and collections, enter the code ZOOLOGY10 at checkout (valid until 31 July). All purchases help support the Museum of Zoology and Cambridge collections.
Join the Museum for the Zoology Live! Online Festival
2021. We have three fantastic livestreams lined up, each one broadcast live
from the Museum of Zoology at 7pm BST. This year we are exploring animals of land, sea and sky. We’ll
be dissecting a cowpat, talking butterflies and explaining how we took down,
stored and put back up a 21-metre fin whale!
Virtual Zoology Lab Tours
Saturday 13 November 2021, 2.30pm GMT
Our first virtual Zoology lab tour was a great success so we have decided to hold another one in November, when we hope we can brighten up a Saturday afternoon. Our speakers will be:
- Dr Emilia Santos: Colourful Cichlids
- Dr Emily Mitchell: The First Animals
- Prof Chris Jiggins: Beautiful Butterflies and Dirty Maggots
Further details and another opportunity to sign up will be in our October newsletter.
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