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Oxford Zoology  At the centre of Oxford University's research and teaching in biology

Enabling targeted interventions to reduce the burden of mosquito-borne diseases.

Scientists create the most accurate global distribution maps to enable targeted interventions to reduce the burden of mosquito-borne diseases.

The global population at risk from mosquito-borne diseases - including yellow fever, Zika and dengue - is expanding with changes in the distribution of two key mosquitoes: Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. The spread of these species is largely driven by a combination of factors: human movements and climate change.

Now, with an unprecedented level of accuracy, an international team of researchers, led by Dr Moritz Kramer in the Department of Zoology, have used statistical mapping techniques to predict where the species will spread over an immediate, medium and long-term time-scale.

The researchers have used 35 years of historic data, together with 17 of the highest-regarded and accepted climate change models to create a tool for public health officials which will allow them to target resource most efficiently and effectively to combat disease outbreak. •

To read more follow link in bio. #oxfordzoology #oxfordbiology #oxforduniversity #mosquito #malaria #statisticalanalysis

Spring statement: Welcome support for Ascension Island marine protection 🌊 Written by Dr Gwilym Rowlands.

As someone passionate about marine ecosystems and their management, the UK spring economic statement doesn’t usually impact my day to day work, but today was different. The chancellor of the exchequer, Phillip Hammond, just announced that “The government will support the call from the Ascension Island Council to designate 443,000 square kilometres of its waters as a Marine Protected Area, with no fishing allowed”.

This announcement is particularly welcome in light of our recent paper focused on the economic and practical viability of designating a Marine Protected Area (MPA) around Ascension Island, a remote British Overseas Territory located in the South Atlantic Ocean. As we note in the paper, long-term conservation benefit of this MPA is dependent on “ongoing financial and institutional commitment on the part of the UK government, backed by public support”.

Small island states such as Ascension Island are often limited by institutional and economic capacity to monitor and manage such large marine estates. Historically, a sizable proportion of the Ascension Island economy has been derived through fishing, yet this fishery has been in decline across the South Atlantic region since the late 1990s.

To designate 443,000 square kilometres will not be a trivial decision for the Island Council. This commitment equates to the majority of the Exclusive Economic Zone; an area defined by the 200 nautical mile limit, in which coastal states have control of marine resources. There is a potential loss of access to this revenue stream if the fishery improves. Reassurance from the UK government of financial support will, therefore, be more than welcome.

To read more follow link in bio. #oxfordzoology #oxfordbiology #oxforduniversity #marine #marineprotectedarea #chancellor #springstatement #AscensionIsland #conservationoptimism 📸 WikiCommons: Avioni

Courting bugs attract mates using an elastic “snapping organ” for vibrational communication.

Planthopper bugs may be small, but they attract mates from afar by sending vibrational calls along plant stems and leaves using fast, rhythmic motions of their abdomen. •

Researchers in the Department of Zoology describe how a newly-discovered “snapping organ” enables courting bugs of both sexes to produce this shaking motion through a combination of muscle action and elastic recoil. Producing vibrations that will travel well along plant material requires the sudden release of mechanical energy – many times faster than could be achieved through direct action of the planthoppers’ tiny muscles. •

The secret lies in the fast release of stored elastic energy, rather like a catapult, but with the key difference that the stored energy is released cyclically, leading to a repetitive up-down motion of the abdomen. This is accomplished by a complex anatomical structure that the researchers call the “snapping organ”, because of the speed with which it snaps open and closed.

The discovery of the new organ was as unexpected as its mechanism. •

Read more, visit link in bio. #oxfordzoology #oxfordbiology #oxforduniversity #snapchat #animalbehaviour #planthoppers 📸 Leonidas-Romanos Davranoglou

Akademeia students awestruck by fly practical.

Last month we were delighted to host students from Akademeia School in Warsaw, as they visited the Department to learn about some of the research going on in Zoology. Hosted by The Wigby Group and principal investigator, Dr Stu Wigby, the group gained some hands on laboratory experience in observing fly mating behaviours.

"It was great fun hosting the Akademeia school students,” said Dr Stu Wigby. “We showed them the Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies that we work on, how the sexes look and move differently, and introduced them into the behavioural genetics and behavioural ecology of insect mating. They were full of great questions about the flies which made me realise how, despite over century of work on this species, there are still so many unknowns!"

The Wigby Group were thoroughly impressed by the enthusiasm and interest shown by the students, and were thrilled to be able to provide a formative experience for the budding scientists. We even heard through the grapevine that one student was so excited by the practical that he immediately bought a huge primer on advanced genetics from Blackwells!

#oxfordzoology #oxfordbiology #oxforduniversity #outreach #sciencecomms #scicomms #drosophila #animalbehaviour 📸 Mark Baynes

New research led by the Department of Zoology has found that the the production of food-related vocalisations made by wintering songbirds decreases progressively throughout the day, as foraging group sizes increase.

Wintering songbirds have to find food while avoiding predators. Previous research has demonstrated that birds benefit by forming groups: they use information from others to find food sources while per-capita predation risk decreases through dilution. However, much less is known about in what way birds produce information about food availability, e.g. calls which attract others. Attracting others to food decreases per-capita risk of predation, but increases competition. However, these costs and benefits do not covary linearly with group size, and the effect of recruiting an additional group member is not constant.

Friederike Hillemann, lead author on the paper, said: 'Using a combined observational and experimental approach, we show that wintering songbirds make economic decisions about when to produce information about food availability: As the day progresses and foraging group sizes increase, the costs of producing calls that attract others outweigh the benefits, causing a decrease in vocal activity into the afternoon.'

📸 @fhillemann

To read more, visit link in bio. #oxfordzoology #oxfordbiology #oxforduniversity #songbirds #bluetit #animalbehaviour #wythamwoods

While we were away, we were delighted that the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands announced additional protection for its Marine Protected Area (MPA). In particular – we gave scientific evidence to the government about numbers and foraging areas around the islands which have largely been adopted. The South Sandwich Islands are one of the most abundant seabird sites in the whole world. Zavodovski Island has 1.3 million pairs of Chinstrap penguins and is likely to be the largest colony of any animal on Earth (although krill swarms may contest this!). Numbers are now uncertain as this volcanic island has erupted since it was last visited by the BBC for Planet Earth 2. We hope to visit next year to survey the islands post-eruption.

Read more from the Penguin Watch team, by following link in bio. (Parents and chicks at the Snow Hill Island Emperor penguin colony. 📸: Tom Hart - Penguin Watch)

#oxfordzoology #oxfordbiology #oxforduniversity #penguins #antarctic #research #polarexploration #conservationoptimism

Congratulations to Dr Prue Addison who was one of the zoology winners in last night’s annual MPLS Impact Awards. Prue was presented with a Social Impact Award for her work to translate research on biodiversity measurement and management, and support more responsible business practice.

Upon receiving her reward, Prue said: “I feel really honoured to have received this award. It’s great to have the University recognise the work I’ve been doing through my NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellowship to translate research on biodiversity measurement and management, to support more responsible business practice. •

My success in achieving research impact would not have been possible without my research collaborators at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science (ICCS), in particular Professor EJ Milner-Gulland and Dr Joe Bull. I also have received invaluable advice along the way from Dr Murray Gardner about developing enduring and impactful industrial research partnerships. And of course none of this would be possible without my wonderful collaborators in business, NGOs and governments that have worked with me to co-design projects that have helped translate academic research into real world impact.”

For more visit link in bio.
📸 Synchronicity Earth

Who doesn’t love a cuddle? Whether it is from a pet or a person they just make us feel good. Would you believe wrapping your arms around someone else can improve your gut health?

In this episode of the Oxford Sparks Big Questions podcast, the team speak to Aura Raulo who works with lemurs, and ask: Why should we cuddle?

To listen, visit: www.oxfordsparks.ox.ac.uk

“I think it is such an incredible privilege to play even the tiniest role in helping to secure Africa’s wildlife. Lions both in Tanzania and across the rest of Africa are in immense threat. In Ruaha we are working to help secure people’s livestock, prevent big cat attacks and direct conflict with local people.” - Dr Amy Dickman.
#BigCatsInitiative 🦁 🎥 @vossiegrenade

Oxford University, through its innovation arm Oxford University Innovation, has entered into an option agreement for a universal influenza vaccine with US-based start-up Blue Water Vaccines, which is raising $15m to support development of the flu shot.

Developed by Professor Sunetra Gupta and Dr Craig Thompson, the vaccine protects against all influenza strains by targeting parts of the virus that induce a protective immune response but are also limited in variability. The technology has the potential of providing life-long immunity against flu.

To read more, visit link in bio. #oxfordzoology #oxfordbiology #oxforduniversity #influenza #flu #vaccin

Our remarkable Dr Amy Dickman has worked with National Geographic UK to produce this short film to show her support of their #BigCatsInitiative 🦁

Amy is a researcher with us at WildCRU and also the Director of The Ruaha Carnivore Project that researches carnivores in Tanzania's Ruaha landscape, working to reduce human-carnivore conflict in the area.

Watch the video here: https://bit.ly/2FUbSks

📸 : Johann Vorster

We are delighted to announce that Professor Alex Kacelnik, FRS, has recently been awarded the ASAB Medal. The Medal is awarded annually for contributions to the science of animal behaviour - through teaching, writing, broadcasting, research, or for work on behalf of the association.

Professor Kacelnik, an Emeritus Professor of Behavioural Ecology in the Department, said: "I am honoured and humbled by this award. Niko Tinbergen’s programme for the science of animal behaviour has been a beacon through my career so far, and continues to be so. Techniques and interests change, but Tinbergen’s conceptual distinction and identification of biologically relevant levels of explanation is as fresh today as it was half a century ago. To be considered worthy of this medal by ASAB, the flagship learned society for Niko’s research programme, is profoundly rewarding."

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