Born and raised in Canada, Krista Natasha Oswald spent five years in South Africa where she studied avian ecology, earning an MSc at Nelson Mandela University and a PhD at Rhodes University. Her research on Cape Rockjumpers, South African birds with limited capacity to deal with temperature extremes, required extensive fieldwork under challenging conditions.
Dr. Oswald’s postdoctoral research at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology in the Jacob Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research uses big data to ask whether human development on a small scale, while generally detrimental to bird communities, may in fact be beneficial if it provides “oases” of resources for birds in otherwise harsh landscapes. Dr. Oswald compares the reproductive success and social group cohesion of different groups of Arabian babblers, a Negev desert species, taking into account the effects of high temperature and invasive competitors.
Dr. Oswald’s project accesses an innovative, noninvasive high-resolution tracking system, currently being built at BGU’s Sde Boker campus, to acquire extremely detailed movement information on dozens of individual birds simultaneously.
Dr. Oswald believes that communicating scientific findings to the public is just as important as collecting data. She has spoken at nature clubs, written for nature magazines and blogs, done online interviews, created short videos on YouTube, and been featured on German public television.
Dr. Oswald hopes her Zuckerman scholarship will initiate a lasting scientific partnership between Canada and Israel.