Aldina Franco is Portuguese but has been working in the UK for the last 15 years. She did a PhD under the supervision of William Sutherland on the lesser kestrel in Portugal and currently she is Senior Lecturer at the University of East Anglia. Her research group works in four core research areas: (1) unravelling the mechanisms underlying changes in dispersal capacity and migratory behaviour and their links to global environmental change, (2) development of niche theory and envelop models for native and non-native species and (3) conservation of endangered species and (4) selection of priority areas for conservation. She teaches ecology to undergraduate and postgraduate students and her teaching includes several links to her research on ecological responses to environmental change.
Q: So Aldina, what is the worst part of your work at the university?
A: Certainly, marking exams.
Q: And what do you like the most from your work?
Many things, this is a diverse job and I like the diversity. I particularly like thinking about the research hypothesis and exploring how to tackle them by testing hypothesis, field work in extremely hot conditions, discussing the results with students, post-doctoral researchers and colleagues.
Q: If you like hot weather, then beer or "tinto de verano(*)"? (*) wine with soda
A: At the end of a hot day I would select beer with tapas.
Q: Quite a lot of your research has been wih lesser kestrels. So ,why lesser kestrel and not other species?
A: Lesser kestrels are great species to work with. They nest in colonies, are relatively easy to capture and mark, they are easy to observe and it is a well know and well-studied species with both migratory and resident individuals inhabiting the same colonies.
Q: What kind of research are you currently doing with the lesser kestrels?
A: I am looking at migratory strategies of lesser kestrels, trying to understand the mechanisms underlying migratory decisions of migrant and resident birds. It is incredible to see in the same colonies individuals that migrate and others that are resident. We do not know how this operates and whether the proportion of residents is changing over time and if it is dependent on the quality of the habitat and suitability of the weather (particularly during the winter). We aim to understand the population consequences of the two migratory decisions, but we are starting with little information (e.g we do not know if birds with different migratory strategies interbreed or not).
Q: You have been collaborating with HORUS. Why do you think this project is important?
A: HORUS is a great project, it enables the public to have access to intimate details of the lesser kestrel day to day life. In the UK the BBC Springwatch programme does the same for many British species. Horus is also good at disseminating science to the general public.
Q: Have you been to Seville?
A: I visited Seville as a tourist more than 10 years ago. I really enjoyed visiting the Alcázar palace complex. The vibrant movement of people in the streets and the late meals in the esplanadas were quite special.
Q: Why did you decide to work in science?
A: Because I felt I did not know enough and did not have enough evidence to support the conservation work I was doing before starting the PhD. I was managing a EU LIFE project for a Portuguese NGO- LPN.
Q: Is science compatible with family life?
A: Yes, it is but requires a lot of effort and organisation.