Special Reports

A little birdie told me

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The vision of the Birds Centre of Excellence is to be the leading international research and postgraduate training institute.

The vision of the Birds Centre of Excellence is to be the leading international research and postgraduate training institute in the fields of ornithology and conservation biology, with particular emphasis on African issues.

To achieve this, the centre undertakes scientific studies about birds. These studies contribute to the theory and practice of maintaining biological diversity and the sustained use of biological resources.

Since its inception in 2005, there has been a significant increase in the numbers of papers published, from 55 a year for the period 2003 to 2005 to 82 a year for 2006 to 2011, an overall increase of more than 50%.

Annual output of papers in journals with high ISI Impact Factors (≥ 2.5) has risen from an average of 4.2 a year between 2000 and 2005 (before the centre of excellence was established) to an average of 25.2 a year in 2006 to 2011, a 600% increase.

Postgraduate and postdoctoral student numbers have increased by 227% since 2005: the number of postdoctorate students has increased from zero to 12; PhD students from six to 18 (300%) and MSc by thesis students from five to 14 (280%).

Members contribute on average 51 semi-popular articles each year (about one a week). They also attend an average of 22 local and international conferences and workshops each year, and present seminars and illustrated talks.

The centre is active in advising conservation organisations, government departments and industry on a variety of research topics and members serve on 16 journal editorial boards and 37 membership and advisory services. They also review on average 90 papers for 50 peer-reviewed journals each year.

A proactive policy on recruiting women maintains an equal gender representation in the postgraduate student body. Research activities are increasingly addressing gender-related issues and community inclusion in the field.

The centre has conducted projects in 22 African countries with students from 66 countries, (64% of students were from African countries).

Its projects currently generate 29 fulltime and 93 parttime jobs, mostly taken up by women, with a jobs to student ratio of 1.7 to 1).

This includes 19 fulltime and 49 parttime jobs in South Africa's previously disadvantaged communities, 10 fulltime and 40 parttime jobs in Zambia and four part-time jobs in Angola.

For more information visit www.fitzpatrick.uct.ac.za/docs/coe.html or contact Dr Rob Little [email protected]

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