Dr. Darren O’Connell is a molecular ecologist from Ireland focused on speciation. Darren completed his PhD with Opwall in Sulawesi and played a critical role in identifying the Wangi-wangi White-eye, an Indonesian bird new to science. Today, Darren is studying honey bee colonies in Ireland to understand how climate change and other stressors affect these populations.

In this episode, we cover how Darren ended up studying island biogeography and speciation, what these studies tell us about conservation efforts, and the long and challenging process of describing a new species.

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Episode Outline: 

  • [0.43] Darren’s background
  • [3.09] Darren’s inspiration to become a scientist and when he decided to study birds
  • [5.09] Key research questions of Darren’s PhD work with Opwall
  • [8.41] Why Darren is interested in evolutionary biology
  • [9:58] What is speciation and why is it important to understand?
  • [12.24] What is island biogeography and how does it relate to speciation?
  • [14.42] How did Darren’s research contribute to our knowledge of island biogeography in Indonesia?
  • [18.18] When you can declare a new species
  • [22.09] The process of describing a new species and the significance of the Wangi Wangi White-eye
  • [27.21] Darren’s work after Opwall
  • [32.40] Darren’s favourite parts of field work
  • [34.33] Advice for people who are interested in starting a career in wildlife ecology & conservation
  • [36.48] What keeps Darren fighting to protect biodiversity?
  • [38.50] Darren’s recommended resources for learning more about some of the topics covered in this podcast
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