Professor Richard Holland

Professor in Animal Behaviour / Director of Research

Contact info

Room: 531 Brambell

Email: r.holland@bangor.ac.uk

Phone: +44 (0)1248 382344

Web: Bangor Animal Navigation Group  Google Scholar Researchgate

 

My research and teaching interests fall broadly in the area of animal behaviour and sensory biology. I am the course co-ordinator for the Zoology with Animal Behaviour degree (C3D3) and teach on several animal behaviour focused modules, as well as ornithology. My research questions focus the cognitive processes and sensory mechanisms by which animals navigate and migrate. While my principle focus is at the level of the whole organism I also incorporate aspects of neurobiology, molecular biology, and physics to identify the  environmental cues, sensory pathways and mechanisms used by animals to decide how, when and where to move. My work also operates in a comparative framework as I compare and contrast across species, taxa, age class, spatial scale and sensory mechanisms to reveal how natural selection has acted to shape navigation behaviour in different animal groups. New avenues my lab is exploring include the impact of artificial light and electromagnetic noise on navigation and spatial cognition, and the impact of antimicrobial resistant bacteria on bird behaviour.

Biography:

2021-2024, Director of Research, School of Natural Sciences

2020-current, Professor in Animal Behaviour

2017-2020, Senior Lecturer, Bangor University

2016-2017, Lecturer, Bangor University

2011-2016, Lecturer, Queen’s University Belfast

2009-2010, Research scientist, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology

2006-2008, Marie Curie Outgoing International fellow, Princeton University and University of Leeds

2002-2005, Postdoctoral research fellow, University of Leeds

1999-2002, Postdoctoral research fellow, University of Nebraska

1994-1998, DPhil, Oxford University

1990-1993, BSc (Hons), University of Nottingham

Research Area

Zoology

Postgraduate Project Opportunities

I can offer projects on animal navigation and migration. Example projects that I can supervise MScRES students or PhDs on are:

The role of spatial memory in homing pigeon navigation.

Migratory behaviour in raptors with reference to the geomagnetic field.

Magnetic navigation in bees.

Spatial cognition in fish.

The effect of sensory pollution (artificial light and electromagnetic noise) on animal behaviour.

Contact Info

Room: 531 Brambell

Email: r.holland@bangor.ac.uk

Phone: +44 (0)1248 382344

Web: Bangor Animal Navigation Group  Google Scholar Researchgate

 

My research and teaching interests fall broadly in the area of animal behaviour and sensory biology. I am the course co-ordinator for the Zoology with Animal Behaviour degree (C3D3) and teach on several animal behaviour focused modules, as well as ornithology. My research questions focus the cognitive processes and sensory mechanisms by which animals navigate and migrate. While my principle focus is at the level of the whole organism I also incorporate aspects of neurobiology, molecular biology, and physics to identify the  environmental cues, sensory pathways and mechanisms used by animals to decide how, when and where to move. My work also operates in a comparative framework as I compare and contrast across species, taxa, age class, spatial scale and sensory mechanisms to reveal how natural selection has acted to shape navigation behaviour in different animal groups. New avenues my lab is exploring include the impact of artificial light and electromagnetic noise on navigation and spatial cognition, and the impact of antimicrobial resistant bacteria on bird behaviour.

Biography:

2021-2024, Director of Research, School of Natural Sciences

2020-current, Professor in Animal Behaviour

2017-2020, Senior Lecturer, Bangor University

2016-2017, Lecturer, Bangor University

2011-2016, Lecturer, Queen’s University Belfast

2009-2010, Research scientist, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology

2006-2008, Marie Curie Outgoing International fellow, Princeton University and University of Leeds

2002-2005, Postdoctoral research fellow, University of Leeds

1999-2002, Postdoctoral research fellow, University of Nebraska

1994-1998, DPhil, Oxford University

1990-1993, BSc (Hons), University of Nottingham

Research Area

Zoology

Overview

Research Interests

My research group focuses on the cognitive processes and sensory mechanisms by which animals navigate and migrate. While my principle focus is at the level of the whole organism I also incorporate aspects of neurobiology, molecular biology, and physics to identify the  environmental cues, sensory pathways and mechanisms used by animals to decide how, when and where to move. My work also operates in a comparative framework as I compare and contrast across species, taxa, age class, spatial scale and sensory mechanisms to reveal how natural selection has acted to shape navigation behaviour in different animal groups. I can offer postgraduate and postdoctoral projects (subject to funding) in the following areas:

The navigation map of migratory birds

The answer to the question of how migratory birds return to the same nest every year after journeys of thousands of miles continues to elude scientists. So far, because it is difficult to study migration in the field, most work has been done in laboratory settings using directed migratory restlessness in Emlen funnels as a proxy for migratory behaviour. Our lab addresses this challenge directly however, and we have developed methods to successfully study aspects of migration in the wild. This has resulted in significant breakthroughs in bridging the gap between field and laboratory. We use a range of tracking methods to study behaviour in response to sensory manipulations; from global satellite tracking of complete migration, to radio tracking the departure directions of small songbirds at stop over sites, in addition to calling on the “controlled” environment of the Emlen funnel. We have established model systems for work on migratory passerines at field sites across Europe and have demonstrated a crucial role for olfactory cues in the migration of adult songbirds and gulls, as well as age and location specific reliance on magnetic cues. Additionally, we have demonstrated that juvenile songbirds, previously thought to navigate based purely on an inherited compass direction, are capable of correcting for displacements in some circumstances. A BBSRC responsive mode grant explored how the magnetic field is used to calculate location, building on our discovery that declination (the difference between geographical and magnetic north) is a component in the navigational map (Chernetsov et al. 2017). A new project is exploring the movement of birds of prey tracked with GPS in relation to the magnetic field.

Orientation and Navigation in bats

Bats are remarkably under studied with regard to orientation, navigation and spatial memory, but I have re-launched the study of long distance navigation in this taxa I have demonstrated that bats use the Earth’s magnetic field as a compass, and that this magnetic compass sense is calibrated through an interaction with the sunset. We are now investigating the sensory basis of magnetoreception in these animals. Whilst in birds, it is know that magnetoreception is visually dependent; in bats no such mechanism has been demonstrated, but we have produced evidence of a mechanism based on magnetite: magnetic iron particles in sensory cells. Additionally, through a NERC new investigator grant we demonstrated that bats use polarized light cues as part of their compass system to calibrate the magnetic compass. Work funded by the Leverhulme Trust has investigated the navigation mechanisms of migratory bats, with reference to the impact of electromagnetic pollution on their ability to orient.

The magnetic sense in bees

A collaboration with the National Grid and Queen Mary University of London aims to investigate the function of the magnetic sense in bees, and its vulnerability to electromagnetic pollution.

Sensory systems and spatial memory

In contrast to navigation from unfamiliar areas, in a familiar place, animals learn and remember spatial locations by constructing a “cognitive map” of the relationship between landmarks in their environment.  The theory of the cognitive map has been studied extensively by testing rats in mazes and by observing brain scans of humans, but has focused almost exclusively on the visual sense. There are sensory systems other than vision that can tell the animal the location of landmarks in space, for example, electro-location in weakly electric fish. My lab has started to investigate the way these fish build up a picture of their environment using their electric sense, and how this compares and contrasts with the way they learn about space using vision. This has implications for understanding the way the brain integrates information from different sensory modalities. 

Ageing and spatial memory

Spatial memory tasks have been used in animals to investigate ageing and understanding the interaction between ageing, sensory systems and memory. We are investigating this using homing pigeons (e.g. Griffiths et al. 2021), a rare example of a model species that allows the investigation of this phenomenon outside the laboratory setting. Using gps trackers we can compare the way pigeons learn and remember routes and how this changes with age. It has the potential to advance our understanding of mental health and wellbeing.

The impact of sensory pollution on animal behaviour

Our lab is starting to explore how electromagnetic noise and artificial light at night disrupt animal's ability to detect the cues they use for navigation. This is relevant across all the areas we study, from migration in birds, to homing in pigeons and spatial cognition in fish and insects, but remarkably little is known about the impact of these pollutants on animal navigation.

Current lab members

Sara Bariselli (PhD student: the magnetic sense in bees). Co-Supervision with Dr Hayley Tripp (National Grid), Dr Paul Cross, Professor Lars Chittka (Queen Mary University of London), .

Noah Church (MScRES student: the role of circadium rhythms in spatial cognition). Co-supervision with Dr Amy Ellison.

Previous lab members

Dr. Will Schneider (Postdoctoral researcher: bat navigation)

Sarah Stachowski (MScRes student: bird navigation)

Jess Hey (PhD student: Bird behaviour and antimicrobial resistence)

Dr. Charlotte Griffiths (PhD student: bird navigation)

James Blane (MScRes student: fish cognition)

Dr. Oliver Lindecke (Marie Skłodowska-Curie research fellow: bat navigation)

Dr. Florian Packmor (Postdoctoral researcher: bird navigation)

Dr. Ingo Schiffner (Marie Skłodowska-Curie research fellow)

Dr. Stefan Greif (Postdoctoral researcher, Queen’s University Belfast)

Dr. Lorrain Chivers (Postdoctoral researcher, Queen’s University Belfast)

Dr. Dmitry Kishkinev (Postdoctoral researcher, Queen’s University Belfast, Bangor University)

Dr. Katherine Snell (Co-supervisor, PhD student Copenhagen University)

Dr. Kyriacos Kareklas (PhD student, Queen’s University Belfast)

Dr. Claire McAroe (PhD Student, Queen’s University Belfast)

Current collaborators

Professor Christian Voigt, IZW Berlin, Germany

Dr. Anna Gagliardo, University of Pisa, Italy

Dr. Chris Hewson, BTO, UK

Dr. Dmitry Kishkinev, Keele University

Dr. Oliver Lindecke, Oldenburg University

Teaching and Supervision

Teaching

Course co-ordinator, Zoology with Animal Behaviour

BNS 3004, Advances in Behaviour (Module co-ordinator)

BSX 3157 Ornithology

BSC 3070 Dissertation

BSX 2018 Behavioural Ecology

BSX1030 Practical skills 1

BSC 1028 Tutorials

Supervision

Charlotte Griffiths, PhD

James Blane, MScRes

Sara Bariselli, PhD

Sarah Stachowski, MScRes

 

 

Research outputs (64)

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Prof. activities and awards (4)

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