Start date

13th October 2016


8.30 pm to 10.30 pm


Rothamsted Conference Centre, Harpenden, AL5 2JQ

Registration deadline

Registration has now closed for this event

Event type


Have you ever wondered why, how and to where insects and birds migrate?

A group of UK and international scientists have the answers. Join them as they reveal the mysteries for flight!

This free public event will be held at Rothamsted Conference Centre on Thursday 13th October from 7.30pm to 9.30pm. The event is part of the Royal Society of Biology’s Biology Week 2016. 

The event includes four talks, followed by an open discussion:

Tracking birds as they migrate here, there and everywhere - Dr Judy Shamoun-Baranes

Cloudy with a chance of moths, butterflies and ladybirds - Dr Jason Lim

Chasing the high fliers: radar studies of insect migration - Dr Jason Chapman

Calories, clocks and a compass: ingredients for an insect migrant - Dr Chris Jones

Insect migration fun fare to include:

  • An insect balloon – demonstrating the use of a balloon to catch insects in flight (outdoors)
  • A moth merry go round – showcasing nocturnal flight
  • A butterfly navigation or ButtNav – a flight simulator to showcase navigation

Dr Judy Shamoun-Baranes, University of Amsterdam

‘Tracking birds as they migrate here, there and everywhere’

Migration is an incredible part of the life history of many mobile animals and yet we rarely observe it.  Radar networks and global tracking systems have created fantastic opportunities to study bird migration 24/7, over land, sea and across continents. By integrating expertise from ecology, computer science, meteorology and graphic design, we are working on new ways of making migration visible and more tangible. Simulation models allow researchers to conduct virtual experiments on migratory birds, testing how wind influences the speed and course of migration, while GPS tags enable us to peer into the secret lives of birds when they leave their breeding areas. Come to this talk for a quick glimpse of ongoing research on the flight behaviour of migrating birds.

Judy Shamoun-Baranes is an Ornithologist fascinated by avian flight and how birds can adapt to varied and changing environments. She is an Assistant Professor at the University of Amsterdam. She received her PhD at Tel Aviv University, Israel studying the influence of weather on soaring bird migration. Her research focuses on the short and long term consequences of behavioural response to internal and environmental factors that influence flight behaviour. She has worked closely with the Israeli and Netherlands Air Forces as well as at the European Space Agency on applied research related to aviation flight safety.  

Dr Jason Lim, Rothamsted Research

‘Cloudy with a chance of moths, butterfly and ladybirds’

Insects are one of the most important animal groups in the development of human cultures and civilization. The abundance of insect pests in our crops determines the quality and quantity of our harvest; insect pests consume or destroy around 10% of GDP in industrialised nations and 25% in developing countries. Meanwhile insect pollinators contribute to the variety of food in our diet. There is a pressing need to understand the movement of both migratory insect pests and pollinators if we are to feed a human population of 10 billion by 2050. In this talk, I will showcase the world’s leading insect monitoring and tracking technologies developed by the Rothamsted Radar Entomology Unit.

Ka S. Lim (Jason) holds a PhD in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. He specialises in microwave technologies and provides innovative technology solutions to various organisations and governmental agencies to establish intelligent environmental monitoring platforms. He is also a senior member of IEEE and currently serves as Senior Research Scientist/Electronics and Radar Engineer at the Radar Entomology Unit of Rothamsted Research. He receives research funding from the BBSRC, European Research Council (ERC) and ENRAM.

Dr Jason Chapman, University of Exeter

‘Chasing the high fliers: radar studies of insect migration’

Every year billions of insects migrate between winter breeding grounds in the Mediterranean region and summer breeding grounds in northern Europe. Most species fly hundreds of metres above the ground where we can’t directly observe them, but the specialised radar techniques employed at Rothamsted Research allow us an unparalleled glimpse into this mysterious world. In this talk I will summarise my studies of the high-altitude, nocturnal migrations of moths, and show how they use wind currents, a compass sense, and phenomenal stamina to carry out these amazing journeys. 

Jason Chapman is a Migration Ecologist who studies insect pests to answer questions about how and why migration has evolved. He is particularly interested in how such small, seemingly delicate and relatively slow-moving animals as butterflies and moths can achieve migratory journeys, which when scaled to their body-size, are among the longest journeys of any animals. He spent 18 years at Rothamsted Research before recently taking up an Associate Professorship at the University of Exeter. He is chair of the ENRAM network.

Dr Chris Jones, Rothamsted Research

‘Calories, clocks and a compass: ingredients for an insect migrant’

The decision to migrate vast distances across terrains and environments never previously encountered is a risky and dangerous one. Yet, each year billions of insects take to the skies to do just that. From the moment a migratory moth or a butterfly emerges, each individual is equipped to fly thousands of kilometres to a destination to which they have never been. So how do these tiny creatures know when and where to go? The answer is in their genes. In this talk, I will give a snapshot of the latest research on the biological and genetic components of migration in some of our most important and cherished moths and butterflies; a story featuring a clock, a compass and a lot of calories.

Chris Jones is a Molecular Ecologist schooled in insect pests of agricultural and medical importance. He obtained his PhD at Rothamsted in 2010 before studying insecticide resistance in African malaria mosquitoes at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. He re-joined Rothamsted in 2013 to investigate the genetic basis of migration. Chris was recently awarded a BBSRC Future Leader Fellowship to study the genetics of migration in important global insect pests.