Just like us, animals have an inner body clock ticking with a “circadian” rhythm of around 24 hours, with timing of these clocks synchronised with daily changes in the environment such as the light-dark cycle. Timing of much of our behaviour and physiology is under control of our circadian clock, yet we still know surprisingly little about how circadian clocks tick in natural environments.
My PhD research combines the fields of chronobiology (clock biology) with ornithology, using birds as a model in order to investigate ecological questions surrounding clocks. Using a variety of approaches from analyses of avian behaviour to genetics, I am investigating questions including whether infection with a “circadian disease” avian malaria, or exposure to artificial light at night (light pollution), has any impact on clocks.
Studying the body clocks of wild animals will shed light on the complex interactions of wildlife physiology and the environment.
For more information on my PhD project, see the January issue of New Nature Magazine.