Professor Tim Birkhead

The Great Auk: greed, death and regret

Tim Birkhead FRS is emeritus professor of behaviour and evolution at the University of Sheffield. His research on promiscuity and sperm competition in birds re-shaped our understanding of bird mating systems. He has also maintained – through Crowd Funding —a fifty-year long-term study of guillemots on Skomer Island, Wales.

The Great Auk: greed, death and regret

Fifty years of studying auks on various offshore islands has allowed me to reconstruct the life of ultimate auk: the great auk — the most iconic of extinct birds. No ornithologist ever saw one alive and our ability to evaluate the great auk’s life rests on its extraordinary afterlife. All that remains of the great auk are a few empty eggshells, some mounted specimens and some skeletal material, preserved for posterity mostly by a succession of obsessive collectors. Not only do these relics tell a fascinating story, they also provide a poignant reminder of what we have lost and what we may yet still lose.


Sir Charles Wilson Building

Address: 1 University Avenue, Glasgow – at the corner of University Avenue and Gibson Street.

Access information –  here

This lecture theatre is very atmospheric, as you can see in the picture above. It has all modern facilities but retains many original features in a beautifully refurbished church building. There are good public transport links, free parking very close by in the University grounds from 5pm, plus nice places to eat or drink before the lecture if you want to make a night of it.

The venue has a hearing loop which can be accessed via a hearing aid. The best reception for the loop can be achieved by audience members sitting in one of the front six rows.

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