James Gilroy has been working with Amadeo Quiñones and Manolo Vázquez during this spring in the difficult task of trapping lesser kestrels and telling apart migrant and resident ones. He is the man behind the isotopes, trying to tell from the feathers if a kestrel has migrated or remained here during winter. He is a postdoc from the University of East Anglia working in Aldina's Franco research project " Migratory decisions in a changing world: mechanisms and drivers of changing migratory behaviour"
-So James, Where are you from?
From Hertfordshire, on the outskirts of the great suburban sprawl surrounding London, England.
-Since when did you feel the need to devote your life to research?
When I was a small child I was obsessed with the outdoors and especially watching animals. All my earliest memories involve birds, and apparently I was holding binoculars before I could walk! As a teenager I learned that this ‘hobby’ was actually a science, and that you could do it for a living!
-What does your mother think about your work?
She’s very happy that I’m doing something I enjoy. However, I suspect deep down she hopes that one day I’ll switch careers and get a ‘proper job’ with regular hours!
-What do you like the most from your work?
The most exciting part for me is analysing the new data. It’s fascinating to use the information we’ve gathered to answer questions about how the natural world works.
-And, what is the worst part?
Spending long periods away from my wife and family when working in the field.
-What kind of research are you doing with the lesser kestrels?
We are examining why some individuals stay at their breeding colonies for the winter, rather than migrating to Africa along with the majority of the population. We understand very little about this behaviour, but it could be important for the future survival of migratory species, particularly under the threat of climate change.
-Which is your role in the project?
As a ‘post-doc’, my role is to carry out the research, analyse the data and ultimately present our findings in the form of peer-reviewed papers.
-Why do you think HORUS is important?
HORUS provides an amazing insight into the lives of these fascinating birds. Thanks to the appliance of remarkable new technology, we will be to understand bird behaviour in greater detail than ever before. This will give us a better chance of preserving these birds in the long term, understanding the role they play in maintaining a healthy ecosystem.
-Have you been to Seville?
Yes – to see the impressive Lesser Kestrel colony in the Cathedral!
-Beer or "tinto de verano(*)"? (*) wine with soda
I’ll take a Scotch, preferably a single malt from the Hebrides!
-Easter or Seville Spring festival?
How about Tarifa migration festival?
-Is scientific research compatible with family life?
I really hope so, as my wife and I are expecting a baby this autumn!
So, congratulations, James! and... What do you do in your free time?
Watch birds, what else?
-If you could choose, would you choose research again?
Absolutely – I just hope research will continue to choose me!