Dr Andrew Gosler

Research Interests

Holding a joint position between the Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology and the Institute of Human Sciences (School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography), my research falls at the intersection between Ornithology and Ethno-ornithology, i.e. the study of birds, and the study of human engagement with birds, especially within the broad context of nature conservation.

Within Ornithology my work has mainly fallen within woodland bird ecology. Since 1981 I have been priviledged to conduct research on the Wytham Great Tit population. I use these long-term data to study the finely-tuned adaptations of the birds. This research includes a long-term study of bill size and body condition (including studies of fat and muscle that can be determined visually during normal ringing/banding operations) which started during my doctoral research in the early 1980s, and a long-term study of the functions of eggshell pigmentation. Although Great Tit has conservation status of 'Least Concern' my long-term research has delivered general principles that contribute to environmental monitoring and conservation. Hence, for example, principles of winter fattening shown in the Great Tit have been found relevant when applied in studies of declining species, and the discovery that eggshell speckling in the Great Tit is related to eggshell thinning has been found relevant to studies of the effects of pesticides (DDT) causing eggshell thinning in raptor species.

Within Ethno-ornithology my work focuses on the unique significance of birds in the engagement between humans and nature. Birds feature in the folklore of every human culture (some 7000), a fact which needs to be recognised to a much greater extent than has hitherto been so in order to develop sustainable conservation strategies that support the needs of both humans and wildlife.

With my colleague Sonia Tidemann, I was priviledged to co-edit the book Ethno-ornithology: Birds, Indigenous Peoples, Culture and Society, published in 2010 in hardback and in paperback in the following year. The book shows that within the broader context of ethno-biology, ethno-ornithology has hitherto largely concerned relatively localized anthropological studies of the ways in which indigenous people engage (or have engaged) with birds, for example in language, for food, companionship, art and inspiration, in connection with spirituality, and as a significant element of folk-taxonomy and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK).

But practically, ethno-ornithology is now developing as a contributor to grass-roots policy formation in connection with global issues as diverse as nature conservation, human conflict resolution and peace-building. In 2013 I was awarded a substantial grant by the Arts & Humanities Research Council to develop EWA: the Ethno-ornithlogy World Archive, in collaboration with Birdlife International, Lynx Edicions and the Endangered Languages Archive at SOAS London. Se the EWA link below.


Additional Information

I have served on the Scientific Programme Committees of the International Ornithological Congress (IOC Tokyo 2014) and European Ornithologists' Union (Riga 2012). I am a contributor to the Religion and Conservation Research Collaborative (RCRC) of the Religion and Conservation Biology Working Group (RCBWG) of the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB).

I am currently a Trustee of A Rocha UK, an advisor to A Rocha International, and am helping with the formation of a new A Rochainitiative in Nigeria. I am Co-convenor of Oxpeace - the Oxford University Network for Peace Studies. In the past, as a Council member of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) I chaired the UK Bird Ringing Committee. I edited Bird Study (1993-1998) for the BTO, and Ibis (1998-2006) for the BOU. I was awarded the Tucker Medal of the BTO in 1999, and the Union Medal of the BOU in 2012. I am a Vice-President of the Oxford Ornithological Society having formerly been President for more than 25 years.

Selected Publications

Gosler, A.G., Bhagwat, S., Harrop, S., Bonta, M. & Tidemann, S. (2013) Chapter 6: Leadership and listening: inspiration for conservation mission and advocacy. In Macdonald, D. & Willis, K.J. (eds) Key Topics in Conservation Biology 2. J. Wiley & Sons, Ltd., Oxford. In Press.

Awoyemi, S.M., Gosler, A.G., Ho, I., Schaefer, J. & Chong, K.Y. (2012) Mobilizing Religion and Conservation in Asia. Science 338: 1537-1538. [doi: 10.1126/science.338.6114.1537-b]

Briggs, B.D.J., Hill, D.A. & Gosler, A.G. (2012) Habitat selection and waterbody-complex use by wintering Gadwall and Shoveler in South West London: Implications for the designation and management of multi-site protected areas. Journal for Nature Conservation 20: 200-210. [doi: 10.1016/j.jnc.2012.04.002]

Tidemann, S. & Gosler, A.G. (2010) Ethno-ornithology: Birds, Indigenous Peoples, Culture and Society. Routledge (Earthscan), London. 376 pages. ISBN-10: 1844077837 

Jagannath, A., Shore, R.F., Walker, L.A., Ferns, P.N. & Gosler, A.G. 2007. Eggshell Pigmentation indicates Pesticide Contamination. J. App. Ecol., doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2007.01386.x

Higham, J.P. & Gosler, A.G. 2006. Speckled eggs: water-loss and incubation behaviour in the great tit Parus major. Oecologia 149, 561-570. 

Gosler, A.G., Higham, J.P. & Reynolds, S.J. 2005. Why are birds' eggs speckled. Ecology Letters 8, 1105-1113. 

Gosler, A.G. 2002. Strategy and constraint in the winter fattening of the great tit Parus major. J. Anim. Ecol. 71, 771-779.

List of site pages