Bird communities

Jenny Munoz studies positive interactions, co-operation, and mutualisms in animal communities. Jenny switched majors in university after a trip to the Amazon, and is now a PhD Candidate @ZoologyUBC.

What are you researching?

I study the interactions between species and how communities are structured. In particular I'm interested in positive interactions, cooperation, and mutualisms and how they can help us understand communities. I study birds in the tropics and the Andes. In particular mixed-species flocks.

How did you come to study birds?

I was lucky to be born in one of the more biodiverse places on earth in Colombia, so since I was a kid i was fascinated by diversity and that fascination never went away. I just got more and more fascinated about it and interested, so I became an ecologist and I just can't imagine another way of seeing life. It's the way how I see it and the way I experience life is through the eyes of an ecologist.

When I started university I was actually an immunologist, but I decided to go on a field expedition to the amazon and the first time I went there I knew I needed to study that more and more. I went on an expedition with people from the university of Florida and I spent four months in the amazon and most of the time I would walk by myself. I was just you know seeing tracks of jaguars seeing birds all over and when I got back to the university I decided to pursue a career in ecology. After that I've been going back to the amazon every year.

What is tour favourite research memory?

It is hard to just pinpoint one memory in the field, but if there's something that I like about my research it is those moments in the morning when you wake up before sunrise and you walk in the dark and then you wait for all the birds to start singing. That moment, the transition between dark and light where the forests are waking up is probably one of my favourite memories in the field.

What is your favourite organism?

I don't have a favourite organism, but I like mixed-species flocks. Those are groups of birds, so if you can imagine they're like a group of 10 or 20 different species that are moving together helping each other. What I like about these interactions or these groups is that as humans we have a lot to learn from societies in animals and how they actually cooperate with each other. I think cooperation is prevalent in nature and we have a lot to learn from that.


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