Jenny Gill – Bird Migration

Name: Jenny Gill

Location: UEA Biology, Iceland

What do you do?

We’re trying to understand bird migration systems and how they operate. In a migratory system you have a species that overall migrates from breeding area to a non-breeding area but then within that you have individuals doing all sorts of different things. So, we’re trying to understand what drives individual migration routes and timing and whether these systems have an effect on breeding success. The main species we work with is the Icelandic Black-tailed Godwit which breeds almost entirely in Iceland and migrates to North-West Europe for the winter. Several thousand of them have little rings on their legs with unique colour combinations so we only ever have to catch them once to tag them and then we can just see them again. We have birdwatchers all over Europe looking out for them for us. We get to Iceland around mid-April before the birds get there in order to monitor them coming in, they tend to come to the estuaries where it stays a bit warmer due to the geothermal activity. We record the arrival dates of the birds and another team come in and take over to measure the breeding success for the rest of the season.

What can you see?

The view is extraordinary. In the springtime we’re looking at these big open mudflats in the middle of nowhere. Just us and a few thousand Godwits.

When I’m not doing science I…

Go and see good friends. We’ve been going out to Iceland since 2000 so we have some really good friends and collaborators out there. We try not to get sucked into eating the dead shark that they like to offer foreigners that is absolutely disgusting. Other than that, we like to get in the hot tub and watch the world go by.

If you’d like to find out more about Jenny’s research, and other cutting each research at UEA, check out their twitter feed:@UEAResearch