Vildan Acar

Vildan Acar


I’ve always held a deep fascination for the natural world, rooted in my upbringing in a rural village as the child of farmer parents. This fascination led me to pursue an undergraduate degree in Biology at Middle East Technical University, Turkey, with the intention of having a career dedicated to the conservation and preservation of nature. My academic journey continued at the same institution, where I successfully completed my MSc in Biology.

During my master’s program, I focused my research on phytoplankton communities, using functional traits to understand community assembly processes. Simultaneously, I actively participated in two significant projects: an EU-funded Aquacosm+ and a government-funded CLIM-SALTLAKES. Within these projects, I undertook diverse responsibilities, including project coordination, logistical management, hands-on contributions to mesocosm system installations, experiment design and execution, and handling of bureaucratic procedures.

While I found great satisfaction in working with freshwater systems, my passion has gravitated towards urban ecology, a fascination that has deepened since my undergraduate years. I’m excited to continue my academic journey with my PhD studies, where I can enthusiastically delve into this field.

Vildan Acar

PhD title: "Understanding the interplay between the gut microbiome, behaviour, and urbanisation in wild birds"

Synopsis: My project revolves around wild birds, with a focus on great tits (Parus major) with a primary goal to explore whether variations in the behaviour and cognitive abilities of these wild birds can be attributed to differences in their gut microbiomes. Additionally, it aims to understand how urbanization affects the diversity of gut microbiomes in wild bird populations.

My work will involve extensive fieldwork, including bird ringing under the licensing scheme of the British Trust for Ornithology, utilizing citizen science-based bird monitoring, gathering fecal samples from wild birds, and attaching RFID tags to monitor their behaviour through RFID feeders.

To understand the link between microbiomes and host behaviour, I’ll conduct 16S rRNA sequencing and utilize computational tools to delve into sequencing data, uncovering potential metabolic functions within bird gut microbiomes. I will conduct statistical tests to examine the impact of urbanization on specific aspects of gut microbiota linked to bird behaviour and cognition.

This work aims to enhance our understanding of the intricate relationship between bird behaviour, cognitive capacities, and gut microbiota in urban settings, shedding light on wildlife adaptations to urban environments.

Other information

During my undergraduate years, I worked in an Erasmus+ project called “Nature for Youth and the City”. With this project, I participated in a series of training from NGOs and academics to become a “nature host”. As nature hosts, my team developed education series on different topics, wrote and implemented activities and games, and was involved in citizen science practices to aid children and adult citizens to connect with nature.