Colleen T. Downs

Colleen Downs

University of KwaZulu-Natal
Pietermaritzburg campus, South Africa

Involved with the BOU as:
IBIS associate editor

Most likely to be found . . .
. . . working when I would rather be birding!

What does being an IBIS associate editor involve?
For me it is an honour to try and further science, especially ornithology. After reading the submission, I try and get reviewers that are experts in the field. Following their reviews I summarise their recommendations with my decision for the editor. In this era of ‘fake news’ and science often not taken seriously I think it most important for editors to uphold the peer review process and its value.

What do you enjoy most about being an IBIS associate editor?
I enjoy seeing many of the novel results some of my colleagues have found. It is also rewarding to see the passion and enthusiasm of young researchers.

What would you say to anyone who is considering submitting a paper to IBIS?
If it is bird research then IBIS is one of the best journals to try.

When did your interest in ornithology begin?
I grew up in a rural area so was always aware of the local birdlife but it was only at university where I had some classmates that I regularly went birding and ringing with that it became a serious hobby. The passion developed being married to a ‘twitcher’ and during three years backpacking around the world. This has continued with my research involving more bird related projects and having family and students who are keen birders.

What is your most memorable bird-y experience?
Difficult one! I have numerous very special bird experiences. But in a simple way I love hearing and seeing the birds in our garden and surrounds each morning.

What is your favourite outdoor place and why?
Another difficult one! Anywhere in Africa where there is good birding!

What do you predict to be the future big research areas in ornithology?
How they are coping with anthropogenic induced change. Also with improved technology I think we will also have some novel discoveries. Their role in conservation will continue as a focus.

What would you say to anyone considering research in ornithology?
It is most rewarding but does not necessarily pay well! You also will see and meet a range of places and people so giving you an interesting perspective of the tapestry of life. Also often amateurs who have specialised in something else can make a contribution by doing more ornithology research at a phase in their lives when it suits. So I think it is quite an inclusive discipline.

If you could visit anywhere in the world, that you haven’t yet been to, where would it be and why?
Fortunately I have travelled extensively to bird but there are several places still on my bucket list. These include Ethiopia, parts of Zambia I have not seen and French Guyana.

What are the big conservation challenges in the next decade?
Anthropogenic environmental change with changing land use in the short term and climate change in the long term.

Has your career in ornithology turned out how you expected it to?
I never expected to be an academic nor an ornithologist so it has been most rewarding. I am more an African terrestrial vertebrate biologist as my work includes herps, birds and mammals.

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