Avian reproduction | BOU2022

12 April 2022


14 April 2022


Nottingham, UK
BOU 2022 annual conference

Nests, eggs and chicks: reproduction in a changing world


Details of the 2022 Alfred Newton Lecturer and conference Keynotes below.

Call for papers

We are now accepting submissions for in-person/Twitter parallel presentations (oral and posters) and Twitter-only presentations:

In-person – oral and Twitter (closed)
In-person – poster and Twitter (deadline 30 September)
Twitter-only (deadline 30 September)

Aims and scope

Within bird life histories, breeding events represent an opportunity to measure some of the fundamental drivers of population and evolutionary processes. It is a crucially important life stage that has heavy energetic demands on parents and offspring, and its consequences can be felt throughout the lifetime of the individuals involved. For offspring, the maternal and environmental effects of their rearing conditions influence their phenotype which determines their competitive and reproductive success later in life. For adults, the investment in offspring brings great rewards but also incurs costs that might carry-over for years. An understanding of the key components of reproductive success can provide important insights into the mechanisms of change and any potential associated limitations.

Whether we are interested in practical conservation or the more theoretical concepts within behaviour and evolution, the breeding stages of bird life histories provide an important focus for many studies. Ranging from nest architecture to egg colouration, clutch sizes to nestling growth patterns, and parental care to chick survival, our understanding of drivers of reproductive success have developed exponentially over the past few decades. From nest building to independent young, this conference aims to promote the latest research on reproductive strategies across a wide range of bird species.

The conference will aim to cover a range of topics relating to the nesting period in the life history of birds, including the following:

  • Interactions between breeders, offspring and siblings, both within and between species;
  • Individual strategies for breeding decisions – having second broods or abstaining;
  • The evolution and function of egg morphology and nest structure;
  • Development and ecophysiology of eggs and young;
  • Costs of reproduction in a changing environment;
  • Links between individual nest outcomes and population dynamics, and the conservation implication.

New parallel conference format

The BOU strives to make all our events inclusive and accessible. To help achieve this we now run all in-person and virtual Zoom conferences as dual platforms events with a Twitter conference running alongside the main in-person/virtual event.

Every presenter at a in-person/virtual event will now be required to tweet a summary of their presentation as part of the parallel Twitter event. We will also include additional Twitter-only presentations during the breaks of the in-person/virtual event.

For BOUsci20, the virtual Zoom event attracted an ‘in-the-room’ audience of 375 registrants, but the parallel Twitter event had over 550 participants, an ‘in-the-room’ audience of >1,600 people and a wider reach of 750,000 – from right around the world.

Unlike other social media platforms, Twitter is genuinely open access as you don’t even need an account to follow the Twitter event content. The BOU knows Twitter inside out having championed its use to promote ornithological research for the last decade and we’ve been running and sponsoring Twitter conferences for some years. Because of this take-up within our community is very high – 75% of BOU2019 delegates were on Twitter!

Presenters will be provided with extensive guidelines on how to tweet your presentation on Twitter, and you will be able to use either your personal or institute account. If neither of these are available, then we the BOU social media team will be on hand to discuss other options for you to present your work on Twitter.

See also Presenting at a Twitter conference

Alfred Newton Lecture

Cuckoos and Curious Naturalists

Nick Davies
University of Cambridge, UK

Nick has been a member of the BOU for over fifty years and sits at Alfred Newton’s old desk in his room in the Zoology Department at Cambridge, where he is Emeritus Professor of Behavioural Ecology and Fellow of Pembroke College. He and his colleagues have studied cuckoo-host interactions for the last thirty five years. His book Cuckoo – cheating by nature is published by Bloomsbury.


Why do eggs fail? Infertility, prenatal mortality, and implications for bird conservation

Nicola Hemmings
Department of Animal & Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, UK
@hemmingsnicola1 & @sheffieldAPS

Nicola is a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow in the Department of Animal & Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield. She studies the reproductive behaviour and physiology of birds, working with conservation practitioners to apply insights from reproductive biology to conservation management. Nicola also has a strong interest in public engagement with science and is involved with several projects aimed at fostering closer connections between people and nature in the UK.


Biorhythms and incubating shorebirds

Martin Bulla
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Germany
Czech University of Life Sciences Prague, Czech Republic

Martin studied incubation of Semipalmated Sandpipers, as well as global variation in incubation rhythms of biparentally incubating shorebirds for his PhD at Max Planck Institute for Ornithology. He then worked at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research investigating biorhythms of Red Knots and is currently a postdoc at Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and at Czech University of Life Sciences, Prague, where he investigates global variation in incubation rhythms of uniparentally incubating shorebirds.


Intergenerational effects of parental state on offspring fitness

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

Pat is an evolutionary ecologist, based at the University of Glasgow, where she holds the Regius Chair in Zoology. She did her PhD at Durham University on seabird ecology, followed by work on the interactions between seabirds and fisheries management. She then began research on the effect of early life conditions in shaping individual life histories, involving studies at many different biological levels from physiology and molecular biology to ecology and behavioural biology. Her work is mainly on birds, involving lab-based and field studies, with related work in other taxa.


The effect of tropic asynchrony on fitness in Blue Tits

Ally Phillimore
University of Edinburgh, UK

After a PhD at Imperial College, London, Ally was awarded a NERC advanced research fellowship which he took to Edinburgh University, where is now a Reader. The main focus of his group’s research is on how climate change impacts the phenology of different plant and animal species and the knock-on effects for species interactions. Since 2014 he has been running the Phenoweb project that looks at a woodland food web composed of trees, caterpillars and blue tits at 44 sites in Scotland.


The impact of parasitism within the family

Emma Cunningham
University of Edinburgh, UK

Following a PhD at Sheffield University, Emma held a Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellowship at the University of Cambridge, and then a post-doctoral research post at the University of California Santa Barbara. She then returned the UK as a Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh, where she now holds a lectureship. Her research group works on the evolution and ecology of reproduction and disease – in particular, how early life conditions affect an individual’s ability to deal with parasitism and infection.

Avian Reproduction special themed issue of IBIS

This is advance notice that we will be seeking papers from both within the conference programme and other researchers working in this area for a special themed issue of IBIS. More details about submission and deadline (likely to be mid-2022) to follow.

Scientific Programme Committee

Ian Hartley | University of Lancaster, UK (Chair)
José Alves | University of Aveiro, Portugal & BOU Meetings Committee
Sarah Burthe | UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Becky Laidlaw | University of East Anglia, UK
Rob Robinson | BTO & BOU Meetings Committee, UK

Image credit: Top right, Common Moorhen feeding chick Francis C. Franklin CC BY SA 4.0 Wikimedia Commons

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