Barbara Helm

Barbara Helm

Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, University of Glasgow, UK

Involved with the BOU as:
Council member

BOU member since: 2012

Most likely to be found . . .
. . . perched on a window sill; best captured by email.

Why are you a member of the BOU?
I translocated to the UK from Germany in 2012, and was very happy to get involved in British ornithology. From my earlier engagement in Germany, I knew of the importance of societies, and was determined to chip in here as well. I had of course long known the BOU, not the least from IBIS, in which I had published and for which I have been reviewing. I also greatly appreciated the huge help by the BOU to the success of the European Ornithologists’ Union meeting in Norwich in 2013!

What is your role on the BOU Council or committee on which you sit?
I see my role on the BOU Council mainly to further link the BOU with the many other societies in Europe that are active in ornithology. Through my European activities, I’m part of many networks, of which some will certainly be useful to BOU members and activities.

When did your interest in ornithology begin?
As a young (primary school) pupil, when I used the seemingly endless hours spent outdoors for obsessive observations and note-taking on birds. I then became ‘adopted’ by local ringers, who took me along, taught me about ornithology, and allowed me to climb up steeples and trees in Bavaria to retrieve juvenile Barn owls and Little owls for ringing.

What do you consider is your most significant ornithological contribution to date?
On the basis of my passion for birds, I got interested in biological clocks, which birds and humans and most other creatures share. My main contribution has been to translate between the simple need of birds to get the timing right (daily and annual), and the rather technical ways of studying clocks. Among other things, we showed that birds adapt their clocks to environments, for example city life, or tropical versus temperate regions.

What is your most memorable bird-y experience?
That’s so hard to say! Among the many that come up, top runners are walking through bogs after sunset and listening to Bitterns calling, or waking in a tent to the calls of a Corncrake.