B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc., PhD

Instructor, Biology
Faculty of Arts and Sciences
School of STEM
Biology

604.986.1911 ext. 3495
Fir Building, room FR494
thomasflower@capilanou.ca

Education

PhD, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, 2012.

M.Sc., Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, 2007.

B.Sc. (Honours), Department of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, 2002.

Bio

Thomas Flower (PhD, University of Cambridge, 2012) is a biologist whose work focuses on evolution, ecology and conservation biology.

Flower's fascination with the natural world began with his early dinosaur obsession. However, after realizing dinosaurs were mostly extinct, he focused on their living descendants, the birds.

Following a childhood spent searching for rare raptors and other exciting organisms in the United Kingdom, Flower pursued his love of animals by undertaking a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology at the University of Bristol.

He then headed to the Kalahari Desert in South Africa where he spent four years studying the incredible cooperative behaviour of meerkats. During this time, Flower managed an international research project and a 3500 Ha game reserve, helped with production of the hit TV natural history program Meerkat Mannor, and completed his Master of Science degree at the University of Pretoria on food competition in meerkats.

For his doctorate at the University of Cambridge, Flower returned to his primary love and studied the deceptive tricks of a bird, the fork-tailed drongo and their interactions with other animals, including meerkats. A summary of his work has conveniently been produced by the BBC and David Attenborough. He joined the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 2012 as a postdoctoral researcher to continue his studies on fork-tailed drongos, as well as a number of other birds throughout Southern Africa.

In 2015, Flower moved to British Columbia to join Simon Fraser University (SFU) as a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow, where he expanded his work to explore how understanding animal behaviour can inform biodiversity conservation. Specifically, he undertook research investigating how forestry in British Columbia affects predation of birds eggs and chicks by Stellers jays. Flower retains research associateship at both UCT and SFU, where he supervises students.

The delight Flower gained from working with and teaching students during his career compelled him to join Capilano University in 2017. Here he works to prepare the next generation for new challenges in the biological sciences and share his own fascination with the natural world through excellence in teaching.

I consider it a privilege to share my fascination with biology, from the incredible mechanisms governing genetics and biochemistry, through anatomy and physiology, onward to the evolution of whole organisms and their interactions with the environment.

In class, I share my experiences as a biologist and encourage students to perceive science as a process of exploration, to which they can contribute with meaningful discoveries. I support student success with class resources, activities and assessments that address specific course objectives, while also helping students develop their general academic skill set.

Whenever possible I take my students out into the natural environment to practice applying their knowledge in the real world.

I am an evolutionary ecologist interested in empirical research to further our understanding of biological systems, facilitate biodiversity conservation and equip the next generation with environmental stewardship skills.

There are two primary themes to my research: (i) how do interactions between species shape the evolution of animal behaviour, and (ii) what are the consequences of human-caused environment change for animal behaviour and biodiversity conservation.

Manuscripts

Gaglio, D., Sherley, R.B., Cook, T.R., Ryan, P.G. and Flower, T. The costs of kleptoparasitism: a study of mixed-species seabird breeding colonies. Behavioral Ecology. doi.org/10.1093/beheco/ary050, 2018. 

Nelson-Flower, M., Flower, T. & Ridley, A. Sex differences in the drivers of reproductive skew in a cooperative breeder. Molecular Ecology. doi-org.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/10.1111/mec.14587, 2018. 

Nelson-Flower, M., Wiley, E., Flower, T. & Ridley, A. Individual dispersal decisions in a cooperative breeder: ecological constraints, the benefits of philopatry and social queue for dominance. Journal of Animal Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.12814, 2018. 

Townsend, S.W., Koski, S.E., Byrne, R.W., Slocombe, K.E., Bickel, B., Boeckle, M., Braga Goncalves, I., Burkart, J.M., Flower, T., Gaunet, F., et al. Exorcising Grice's ghost: An empirical approach to studying intentional communication in animals. Biological Reviews. (doi:10.1111/brv.12289), 2016. 

Pichegru, L., Edwards, T.B., Dilley, B.J., Flower, T.P., Ryan, P.G. African penguin tolerance to humans depends on historical exposure at colony level. Bird Conserv. Int. 26, 307-322. Doi:10.1017/s0959270915000313, 2016. 

Flower, T. P., Ashton, B, Zttl, E., Olinger, R. & Hockey, P. A .R. Dual parasitism of Fork-tailed Drongo by African and Jacobin Cuckoos, Ostrich, 86, 189-191. Doi: 10.2989/00306525.2015.1029032, 2015. 

Baigrie, B.*, Thompson, A. M. & Flower, T. P. Interspecific signalling between mutualists: Food-thieving drongos use a cooperative sentinel call to manipulate foraging partners. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 281 (1791), 20141232. Doi: 10.1098/rspb.2014.1232, 2014. 

Flower, T. P., Gribble, M. & Ridley, A. R. Deception by flexible alarm mimicry in an African Bird. Science, 344, 513-516. Doi: 10.1126/science.1249723, 2014. 

Flower, T. P., Child, M. & Ridley, A. R. The ecological economics of kleptoparasitism: payoffs from self-foraging versus kleptoparasitism. Journal of Animal Ecology, 82, 245-255. doi: 10.111/j.1365-2656.2012.02026.x, 2013. 

Child, M. F., Flower, T. P. & Ridley, A. R. Investigating a link between bill morphology, foraging ecology and kleptoparasitic behaviour in the fork-tailed drongo Dicrurus adsimilis. Animal Behaviour, 84, 1013-1022. Doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2012.07.027, 2012. 

Brooke, M. de L., Flower, T. P., Campbell, E. M., Mainwaring, M. C., Davies, S. & Welbergen, J. A. Rainfall-related population growth and adult sex ratio change in the Critically Endangered Raso lark (Alauda razae). Animal Conservation, 15, 466-471. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-1795.2012.00535.x, 2012. 

Nielsen, J. F., English, S., Goodale-Copestake, W. P., Wang, J., Walling, C. A., Bateman, A. W., Flower, T. P., Sutcliffe, R. L., Samson, J., Thavarajah, N. K., Kruuk, L. E., Clutton-Brock, T. H. & Pemberton, J. M. Inbreeding and inbreeding depression of early life traits in a cooperative mammal. Molecular Ecology, 21, 2788-2804. doi: 10.11.11/J.1365-294X.2012.05565.x, 2012. 

Flower, T. P. & Gribble, M. Kleptoparasitism by attacks versus false alarms in the fork-tailed drongo. Animal Behaviour, 83, 403-410. doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.11.009, 2012. 

Flower, T. P. Deceptive vocal mimicry by the fork-tailed drongo. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 278, 1548-1555. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2010.1932.

Brooke, M de L., Flower, T. P. & Mainwaring, M. C. Scarcity of females may constrain population growth of threatened bird species: case notes from the Critically Endangered Raso Lark Alauda razae. Bird Conservation International, 20, 382-384. Doi: 10.1017/S0959270910000225, 2010. 

Clutton-Brock, T. H., Hodge, S. J., Flower, T. P., Spong, G. F. & Young, A. J. Adaptive Suppression of Subordinate Reproduction in Cooperative Mammals. The American Naturalist, 176, 664-673. doi: 10.1086/656492, 2010. 

Hodge, S. J., Thornton, A., Flower, T. P., & Clutton-Brock, T. H. Food limitation increases aggression in juvenile meerkats. Behavioural Ecology, 20, 930-935. doi:10.1093/beheco/arp071, 2009. 

Clutton-Brock, T. H., Hodge, S. J. & Flower, T. P. Group size and the suppression of subordinate reproduction in Kalahari meerkats. Animal Behaviour, 76, 689-700. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2008.03.015.

Hodge, S. J., Manica, A., Flower, T. P. & Clutton-Brock, T. H. Determinants of reproductive success in dominant female meerkats. Journal of Animal Ecology, 77, 92-102. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2007.01318.x, 2008. 

Hodge, S. J., Flower, T. P. & Clutton-Brock, T. H. Offspring competition and helper associations in cooperative meerkats. Animal Behaviour, 74, 957-964. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2006.10.029, 2007. 

Magazine and Newspaper Articles

Thomson, R. & Flower, T. P. 2016. Living together. Birdlife South Africa, Sep/Oct 2016 pp 65.

Flower, T. P. & Baigrie, B. 2015. Puppet masters of the Kalahari. African Birding, 2015, 3 (2).

Flower, T. P. 2014. Masters of the art of deception. SANParks Times. Spring 2014, 46.

Flower, T. P. 2012. Brains vs. Brawn: strategies of a criminal. African Birding, 2012, 17 (22).

Flower, T. P. 2011. How to Fool a Meerkat. BBC Wildlife. February 2011, 56-57.

Flower, T. P. 2011. Animal cameo: fork-tailed drongo. Feedback: ASAB News Letter, 2011, 6.

Television

Worlds Sneakiest Animals (E2/3), BBC1 (UK). Dec 2015. Advised on production and filming of my drongo and sociable weaver research. http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x453jgl

Animals in Love, BBC 1 (UK), Jan 2015. Interview discussing meerkat behaviour.

Darwin has come, the new legend of wildlife, NHK (Japan), Dec 2014. Advised on production and filming of this 30 minute documentary on my drongo research.

The Mind Report, Bloggingheads.tv, Sep 2014. Interview discussing intentionality and deception with Jonathan Phillips (Yale University). View at http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/30750

Talk to the Animals, BBC 1 (UK), Jul 2014. Interview with presenter Lucy Cooke discussing and presenting my drongo research (8 minutes).

Africa, BBC1 (UK) and Discovery Channel (International), Jan 2013. I assisted with production and filming of my research on the drongo which featured as the opening sequence in this major natural history series. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yd5OlsdD794

Meerkat Manor, Animal Planet (International), Sep 2005-Dec 2007. I was responsible for production logistics and overseeing filming of meerkats for all four 13-part seasons of this groundbreaking and highly popular natural history documentary.

Radio

As it Happens, CBC Radio 1 (Canada), May 2014. Interview discussing my manuscript Deception by flexible alarm mimicry in an African bird. Listen at http://www.cbc.ca/asithappens/features/2014/05/05/the-fork-tailed-drongo-mimics-the/.

The Mooney Show, RT Radio 1 (Ireland), Feb 2013. Interview in which myself and a panel discussed my manuscript The ecological economics of kleptoparasitism: payoffs from self-foraging versus kleptoparasitism. Listen at http://www.rte.ie/radio/mooneygoeswild/fp2013/jan11.html

Morning Report, Radio NZ (New Zealand), Oct 2010. Interview discussing my publication Fork-tailed drongos use deceptive mimicked alarm calls to steal food. Listen at http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/morningreport/audio/2430806/double-deception-from-the-drongo-bird

Quirks and Quarks, CBC Radio 1 (Canada), Oct 2010. Interview discussing my publication Fork-tailed drongos use deceptive mimicked alarm calls to steal food. Listen at http://www.cbc.ca/quirks/episode/2010/11/06/november-6-2010/

Rules of Life, BBC Radio 4 (UK), Dec 2005. Discussed meerkat behaviour with presenter Aubrey Manning. Listen at http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/science/rulesoflife.shtml

Natural Despots, BBC Radio 4 (UK), Oct 2005. Discussed meerkat behaviour with presenter Michael Portillo. Listen at http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/science/naturaldespots.shtml

Luminous Award, Employee Recognition Awards, Capilano University, 2019.