More than a Bird’s Eye View: A FUTA Alumnus Fascination with Conservation Biology

Oluwadunsin Emmanuel ADEKOLA graduated from the Department of Ecotourism and Wildlife Management, Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) in 2014 with a First Class Honours. He holds two Masters Degrees in Wildlife Ecology and Management from FUTA and Conservation Biology from A.P Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI), University of Jos, Nigeria. Apart from being an Assistant Lecturer in FUTA, He is also a PhD candidate at the FitzPatrick institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, South Africa. Below, he gives a concise account of his area of research interest and the place of birds in the ecosystem.  

My research interest is behavioural ecology of birds, especially seabirds. Birds are incredibly amazing and enormously interesting to study them. They are important because they keep systems in balance, ranging from plant pollination to nutrient recycling. These enigmatic species are biological indicators in predicting weathers and maintaining a healthy ecosystem. They adapt to their environments in intriguing ways, thus act as indicators of the state of the environment. They travel from place to place and by monitoring their movements, we can see changes in habitat, perhaps before we would notice the changes by ourselves. We live on a planet that, in part, depends on the ecological services provided by birds.

Back to my main research focus, seabirds as a group occur in all seas and oceans worldwide, and their role as potential indicators of marine conditions is widely acknowledged. The status of seabirds reflects the underlying state of important parts of the coastal and oceanic systems of the world and thus it is imperative for us to take particular interest in how seabirds are faring. Considering the fact that the ocean covers more than 70 percent of the surface of our planet. It is hard to imagine that over 95 percent of the earth’s water can be found in the oceans and it is quite hard for us, as terrestrial organisms, to really understand what is going on in the ocean. Yet, we hugely depend on the sea for food, in form of fisheries. This is where seabirds are really useful because they live in that environment, so we get a window into the oceanic environment by looking at these birds during their terrestrial phase. So, they form a foundation for ecological health across oceans and islands. As for the great challenges that we are facing today, such as climate change and overfishing, seabirds give us important clues to the health of the marine resources on which we depend as humans.

Specifically, I am working on a seabird called Cape Gannet and will be answering ecological questions related to timing, rate, sequence and duration of moulting in the species vis-a-vis relationships between the intensity of ornamentation signals, mate choice and breeding performance. Moulting is all about replacement of old feathers with new ones. This activity is indispensable and energy-demanding in birds and hardly overlaps with other activities such as breeding and migration. Theoretically, Birds need to moult to repair the damage to feathers caused by mechanical abrasion, photochemical processes or parasites. The Cape Gannet is endemic to Southern Africa and are endangered according to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and thus conservation effort must be put in place to protect this iconic bird.

On a general note, birds are integral part of the earth’s ecosystem. Without them, nature would lose her voice and the planet its most engaging envoys. Trust me; our world without birds cannot be complete.