PhD Researcher
Avian conservation
Small population recovery
Hatching failure
Contact details

Institute of Zoology
Zoological Society of London

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Matt studies the effect of long-term captivity on the biology of highly threatened birds, aiming to help plan their recovery.

With the world’s biodiversity in a state of crisis, ex-situ (captive) care of species is becoming more and more necessary. However, very little is known about how life in captivity may change a species’ biology. Research from both here at the Institute of Zoology and further afield has shown that changes can take place, but few links have been made between these changes and a species’ recovery potential. Matt's project aims to understand the effect of long-term captivity on the biology of highly threatened birds, with a view to helping plan their recovery. To do this, Matt is investigating several parts of the ex-situ conservation process, from analysing the reproductive success of these birds to investigating whether captive diets and enclosures have changed the shape of their beaks or wings.

Matthew J Mitchell

Matt collaborates with institutions across the world to gain access to morphometric and hatching success data from their collections, starting at London Zoo where he is able to use the individuals of two species, the Socorro dove and Vietnam pheasant, to assist in his research. Both of these species, as well as Matt's third species of focus, the sihek (Guam kingfisher) are extinct in the wild and of great conservation concern, so understanding how time in captivity may have changed them is critical to any conservation translocations that take place. The results of the project will inform conservation managers regarding the kinds of traits they may expect modern-day captive populations to express differently to their historical counterparts and help them plan recovery strategies accordingly.

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Professional history

2021-present: PhD researcher, London NERC DTP, Institute of Zoology and UCL
2021: PTES funded research intern, hedgehogs & roads project
2019-2020: MRes in Biodiversity, Evolution & Conservation; Institute of Zoology, UCL & Natural History Museum. 
2015-2018: BSc (Hons) Zoology, University of Exeter


Mitchell, M.J., Goswami, A. and Felice, R.N. Cranial integration in the ring-necked parakeet, Psittacula krameri (Psittaciformes: Psittaculidae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 2021 133(1): pp.47-56. doi: 10.1093/biolinnean/blab032

Caro, T., Argueta, Y., Briolat, E.S., Bruggink, J., Kasprowsky, M., Lake, J., Mitchell, M.J., Richardson, S. and How, M. Benefits of zebra stripes: Behaviour of tabanid flies around zebras and horses. PLoS One. 2019 14(2): p.e0210831. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0210831