UEA Engagement award for the EI ‘Pink Pigeon Trail’

7 June 2019

Leading Academics at Park Partners Earlham Institute and the University of East Anglia (UEA) are recognised for their commitment to making an impact through their research at the eleventh UEA Engagement Awards, which takes place on 12 June.

The Earlham Institute (EI) brought the Pink Pigeon Trail to the Norwich Science Festival 2018 and it was a huge success. Led by the Communications Team at EI, the Pink Pigeon trail set to highlight the plight of a bird that was, until recently, set to go the same way as its cousin, the Dodo.

The parallels are quite staggering, in fact, as the bird is endemic to the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. That was until Gerald Durrell decided that ten pigeons were not a sustainable number and set a conservation programme underway that has seen their numbers rise to around 400 today.

A success, you might think. Yet, the pink pigeon remains threatened. For a start, the amount of native forest on Mauritius is meagre, covering less than 5% of the land, therefore, the pink pigeon doesn’t have far to roam, fly and roost.

More interestingly for PhD Student Camilla Ryan at EI and UEA, who jointly won the Project Award with Science Communications & Outreach Manager Dr Peter Bickerton, the pink pigeon population has been forced through quite a severe bottleneck, which means that the surviving population lacks genetic diversity. 

A lack of genetic diversity afflicts a great range of threatened species and better understanding how this puts them at greater risk of disease and climate change is of great importance when informing conservation efforts. It might be that better understanding the population genetics of such species can help breeding programmes, introducing much needed diversity from zoo specimens, for example.

For the full article, head over to Earlham Institute's Website