Scientist who has dedicated 45 years to studying seabirds scoops two prestigious awards

A Zoology professor at the University of Sheffield, who has studied seabirds for more than 45 years, to help us understand more about their ecology and behaviour, has been recognised for his outstanding contribution to the communication of science.

Professor Tim Birkhead with his award from the ZSLProfessor Tim Birkhead, from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, received two prestigious awards, one from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the other from the Society for the Study of Evolution (SSE) for his tireless dedication to research and teaching.

The renowned ornithologist, who is committed to outreach and widening participation at the University of Sheffield, was presented with the Clarivate Analytics Award for Communicating Zoology for his latest publication The Most Perfect Thing: Inside (and Outside) a Bird’s Egg.

The book explains how the egg is a perfect survival capsule - an external womb - and one of natural selection's most wonderful creations. It was shortlisted for the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize 2016 and was one of Forbes' Best Books About Birds and Birding in 2016.

The award recognises the impact of Professor Birkhead’s achievements in communicating zoology issues which have an impact on a general audience.

Professor Birkhead, whose long-term study of the guillemot population on the island of Skomer, Wales started in 1972, also received the Stephen Jay Gould Prize from the Society for the Study of Evolution.

The judging panel praised Professor Birkhead for his major contributions to the understanding of animal behaviour, evolution and ecology.

When Professor Birkhead began his studies on Skomer, the guillemot population was just 2,000 individuals. By 2011, numbers were up to 20,000 individuals. During the early stages of the pioneering study, Professor Birkhead came up with innovative ways to overcome the many technical challenges of conducting a census of guillemots, a feat which had never been tried before.

The second task was to determine how many chicks were produced each year and whether it was enough to sustain the population. By marking birds individually with colour rings, Professor Birkhead was able to measure their breeding success, see how old they are when they first start to breed and see how long the birds live.

Speaking about his prestigious awards Professor Birkhead said: “I am delighted to receive these awards – it is such an honour.

“The best part of my job is working with budding young scientists who clearly have a passion for zoology and are so enthusiastic to learn more about the animals and plants that share our planet.

“Science is such an important subject and as academics, researchers and teachers we have a responsibility to ignite that passion to learn about our world and how we can help to protect it for future generations.”

Professor Birkhead has previously been named UK Bioscience Teacher of the Year by the UK Society of Biology in honour of his inspirational teaching and longstanding passion for research in the field.

Additional information

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For further information please contact:

Sean Barton
Junior Public Relations Officer
University of Sheffield
0114 222 9852