2022 BOC Meetings

Monday 16 May 2022

Martin Stervander – The evolutionary history of a remarkable radiation of South Atlantic finches

Abstract: Ask anyone interested in birds for an example of adaptive radiations, and they will probably mention the Darwin’s Finches, the evolutionary rock stars of the Galápagos Islands. But did you know about the Nesospiza finches, endemic to Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic? Tristan is a small and very isolated archipelago comprising three islands, the two smaller of which are each home to both a small-bodied and small-billed generalist finch and a large-bodied and large-billed specialist finch that feeds exclusively on the seeds of an endemic island tree. But how are these four taxa related, and how did they evolve? And where do the extinct small-billed finches of the third, larger island fit into the picture? I will take you on a trip to the South Atlantic, to see what ecology and a whole lot of DNA detective work can reveal about this remarkable radiation.

Biography: Martin Stervander is a Marie Skłodowska Curie Fellow at the Natural History Museum, where he currently does research on the genomic architecture of convergent evolution of flight loss in island rails (including the Inaccessible Island Rail, neighbour to the Nesospiza finches). Martin did his PhD on speciation in birds at Lund University (Sweden), followed by a postdoc at the University of Oregon (USA). While his main research is focused on understanding the evolutionary mechanisms of speciation and radiation as well as phenotypic convergence, his interests also comprise phylogenetics, taxonomy, and phylogeography. Martin is also an Associate Editor of Ibis and the Managing Editor of BirdLife Sweden’s ornithological journal Ornis Svecica, which—similarly to the Bulletin of the BOC—is available online, at https://os.birdlife.se.


Monday 21 March 2022

Kathryn Rooke – The Importation of the Plumage (Prohibition) Act of 1921, as told through the Natural History Museum’s Archive collections

Abstract: In the Victorian and Edwardian period, a demand for bird feathers in fashionable millinery led to the most luxurious of plumes being worth, quite literally, their weight in diamonds. Demand for feathers of egrets, birds of paradise, hummingbirds, grebes and more, were pushing bird populations across the world to the brink of extinction. In this talk, I share records from the Natural History Museum’s Archives that document the Museum’s contribution to a lengthy campaign, led by the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), to end the importation of bird feathers from across the then British Empire; eventually resulting in the passing of the Importation of Plumage (Prohibition) Act in 1921.

 Biography: Kathryn Rooke is the Assistant Archivist at the Natural History Museum and Archivist at the former Rothschild property, now local history museum, Gunnersbury Park. She is a history graduate and Archives and Records Management post-graduate who has previously worked for Lancashire Archives, The Clothworkers’ Company, The Barber-Surgeons’ Company and The School for Oriental and African Studies. After a brief three-year stint in Taiwan, she is now London-based with her family and enjoying the opportunities NHM has brought to revisit a childhood of bird-watching and bug-collecting.

Part of a collection of hummingbirds in original newspaper wrappings, originally assembled for millinery purposes (Jonathan Jackson © Natural History Museum)