- 2019- present: Lecturer (Animal Behaviour / Behavioural Neuroscience), Keele University
- 2017-2019: Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, Bangor University, UK
- 2016-2017: Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Bangor University, UK
- 2014-2016: Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Queen’s University Belfast, UK
- 2012-2014: Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship (NSERC), University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada
- 2011-2012: Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Oldenburg, Germany
- 2006-2011: PhD (Biology), University of Oldenburg, Germany
Born and raised in Russia, in 2003 I graduated with Diploma (biology and chemistry teacher) from the Ulyanovsk Pedagogical University. During my undergraduate (1998-2003) and later MSc studies (2003-2005) at the Saint Petersburg State University, Russia, I was contributing to several research projects in the field of avian movement ecology and bird navigation under the supervision of the academic staff of the Biological station Rybachy with which I still collaborate. This research institution is remarkable for being the descendant of the world’s first bird observatory ‘Vogelwarte Rossitten’ (German: ‘Bird Observatory Rossitten’) established in 1901 on the southeastern coast of the Baltic Sea - a hot spot for bird migration in Europe. Now it is a branch of the Zoological Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences and one of the leading centres studying bird migration. In 2005, I obtained MSc in Biology from Saint Petersburg State University. That time I started a series of research projects on bird navigation addressing the question of how birds navigate. Specifically, I have delivered several experimental studies focused on the ability of migratory Eurasian reed warblers, Acrocephalus scirpaceus, typical European migratory songbirds, to find their way across 100’s and 1,000’s km and reach their migratory destinations even when they were displaced to unfamiliar territories (the phenomenon is called true navigation). In the past 15 years, myself with the international team of collaborators have done a series of experimental studies using reed warblers to address the questions of what are the senses birds require for finding their location relative to the goal. One of our main findings is that a trigeminal nerve dependent magnetic sense seems to be crucial for navigation in reed warblers and perhaps some other avian species (Kishkinev et al. 2013 PLoS One, Kishkinev et al. 2015 Curr Biol). In 2011, I earned a PhD in Biology working in Animal Navigation Lab, University of Oldenburg, Germany. This group is led by Prof Henrik Mouritsen and renown in the field of animal navigation and animal magnetoreception. My PhD was based on a range of field- and laboratory-based studies focused on different aspects of bird navigation and magnetosensory mechanisms including displacement experiments, orientation tests of birds in round arenas (so-called Emlen funnels), operant conditioning, brain activity mapping using neuronal activity markers and various magnetic manipulations.
During my postdoctoral years, I initially delivered my research project examining the role of magnetic and olfactory senses for bird navigation working in Canada (Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship funded by NSERC at the Norris Lab, University of Guelph, Ontario, 2012-14). Later in 2014, I moved to the UK to work as a Postdoctoral Research Assistant for the Leverhulme research grant led by Dr Richard Holland (former Queen’s University Belfast and now Bangor University). During those years I was actively engaged in several research projects mainly based overseas. In Austria (Biological station Illmitz) I did experiments to test the current hypotheses explaining how reed warblers can use earth’s magnetic field for navigation and positioning. In Russia, I used light-level geolocators to track songbirds migratory pathways and the impact of blood parasites on migratory performance in songbirds (Emmenegger et al., in review). In 2017, I started leading research on the two projects. My Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship (2017-present) was initially based in Bangor University. The project titled “The disturbing effect of electromagnetic fields on the avian magnetic compass sense” aims to further study a recently discovered disturbing effect of anthropogenic electromagnetic fields on the avian magnetic compass sense. I also led a team of overseas academics delivering the grant funded by Russian Science Foundation (project titled “Sensory systems for short and long-distance navigation in birds”). This project addressed the questions of how migratory songbirds can use magnetic and olfactory senses for finding their geographic position relative to destinations, whether the use of these senses depends on geographic scale (short vs long distances) and where magnetosensensory cells (aka magnetoreceptors) could be located in the animal's body.
I joined Keele University as a Lecturer in Animal Behaviour / Behavioural Neuroscience in November 2019.
Research and scholarship
How can birds, sea turtles, migratory butterflies and many other animal taxa find their way to intended destinations travelling 100’s or 1000’s miles even across completely unfamiliar territories without access to satellite navigation technologies humans have? What cues and senses do animals use for navigation? How can animals perceive changes of the Earth’s magnetic fields? How can human-made rapidly expanding electromagnetic noise produced by telecommunication infrastructure affect and disrupt animal’s behaviour? These and associate questions lie in the heart of my research. Additionally, I am interested in unravelling the mystery of the animal’s magnetic sense to understand how this sensory system works. For example, where are magnetosensory cells located in the animal’s body and, once they are found and described, how such cells can inspire various research and BioMed applications? The question of how the animal’s magnetic sense works is one of the greater mysteries in current biology. This puzzle is because solid behavioural responses of different animals clearly show that some animals must possess magnetic sense but the magnetosensitive system(s), cells (aka magnetoreceptors), and their perceptive mechanisms remain poorly understood.
I am also enthusiastic about the development and application of advanced telemetry and bio-logging techniques such as automated radio-telemetry, GSM / GPS tracking, and geolocation. Such cutting-edge technologies help us reveal new pathways of migratory species and better understand different aspects of movement ecology which have never been discoverable before the advent of these technologies. Recently, we used a network of automated radio-tracking towers to study movements of birds, dragonflies and bats in the south-eastern part of the Baltic Sea (Kaliningrad region in western Russia and Lithuania). The long-term goal is to build a network of automated radio-tracking units in Europe and/or UK being inspired by the MOTUS collaborative wildlife tracking system - a huge success in North America and beyond (find more here https://motus.org). Also, my collaborators and I strive to develop a few affordable and versatile wildlife telemetry solutions for research, conservation, education and wildlife management.
My current research focuses on 3 main themes spanning from organismal to cellular levels:
1) The sensory mechanisms of animal orientation and navigation.
2) The neurosensory substrates and the proximate mechanisms of the animal’s magnetic sense.
3) Development and application of a versatile, affordable and scalable telemetry systems to monitor movement and activity of animals in the wild.
Current research projects in more detail:
1) The sensory mechanisms of animal orientation and navigation.
Together with an international team of collaborators, we do field experiments to better understand how migratory songbirds and non-migratory homing pigeons can find their geographic location using natural cues available to them (the sun, stars, odours, landmarks, earth’s magnetic field and odours). These studies are based at universities and academic biological stations in the U.K., Russia and Austria. We combine various sensory manipulations to examine current hypotheses explaining how birds and perhaps other animals can orient and navigate using astronomical, visual, magnetic and olfactory cues to reach their targets moving across short (just few kilometres) and long (100’s to 1000’s km) distances.
2) Neurosensory substrates of a magnetic sense in animals.
2.1 Magnetosensitive neurons in the avian brain
To better understand how the avian magnetic sense works and trace down the location of avian magnetosensitive cells in the body, we study in which parts of the avian brain there is a correlation between magnetic stimulation to which experimental birds are exposed and elevated level of neuronal activity. Finding and characterizing such regions will help us examine the current hypotheses explaining how birds can sense magnetic fields (e.g., whether this sense resides in specialized cells in the trigeminal nerve endings, in the retina of the eye of in the vestibular system as different hypotheses claim).
2.2 New animal models to elucidate the animal’s magnetic sense
Historically, the main model systems for magnetic sense studies have been birds (migratory songbirds and homing pigeons). We now strive to establish new, understudied but potentially powerful animal models. For example, we are working to establish new approaches in this field using popular genetic and neuroscience models such as the zebrafish and/or other freshwater fish species among others. Wide range of genetic, molecular and brain imaging techniques exist in the species to manipulate with genes, perform inexpensive behavioural tests and observe the nervous system in action. We therefore aim to establish a behavioural approach to clearly demonstrate that this species or other freshwater fish can respond to a changing magnetic field. This will open the new possibilities of tracing the location of the magnetic sense within the body and investigating this sense in more detail using techniques not available in birds.
3) Development of advanced and affordable telemetry systems to monitor free-ranging movement and activity of animals in the wild.
3.1 Using the Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to track animals remotely.
Inspired by recent advances in electronics miniaturisation, IoT, we are developing an inexpensive and versatile GPS/GSM tracker that can collect and relay location and other bio-logging data remotely to the researcher. Such trackers are often prohibitively expensive and/or have sub-optimal designs impeding many research projects.
3.2 Developing networks of automated radio-telemetry units to track and monitor locomotor activity of small animals.
We constantly develop new approaches for the use of advanced automated radio-tracking units to study movements of birds and other small animals to address questions previously unreachable for researchers. An automated radio-telemetry unit (ARU) is a set of autonomous (powered by solar panels) equipment set up in the field. It receives radio signals from locally moving animals by antennas, digitises and processes the signal on the flight using small and inexpensive single-board computers (such as Raspberry Pi) and then relays a plethora of data to the server via a wireless link. ARUs can be remotely controlled and reconfigured and the data can be immediately accessed by the researcher at any points of the globe. The units can form networks covering small to large areas and be programmed to scan movements of animals 24/7 – a laborious task previously infeasible for human field assistants. Very small devices (even less than 1 g) can be attached on free-ranging animals including large insects (e.g., dragonflies!). Recently we used such networks to study migratory and pre-migratory movements of songbirds, dragonflies and bats in the south-eastern part of the Baltic Sea (Kaliningrad region in the western part of Russia and Lithuania) and in Central Russia (see Kishkinev et al. 2020 Journal of Ornithology). Our long-term goal is to further develop, popularize and utilise such networks of ARUs in UK and Europe. This is especially timely given that the MOTUS collaborative wildlife tracking system has proven to be a huge success in North America (find more here https://motus.org). My team and I are developing an affordable, versatile and scalable equipment kits including both radio-tags (attached on animals) with unique IDs and ARUs and going to field test this equipment to showcase its potential for animal research, conservation and wildlife management.
Key to images (from top to bottom):
Experiments in magnetic coil setup
Automated radio-tracking unit
Eurasian reed warbler
White-throated sparrow (left) and a homing pigeon with GPS tracker (right)
Counting active neurons in the avian brain (gif)
Zebrafish experiments in a changed magnetic field (gif)
I teach in both Biology and Neuroscience programmes contributing primarily to the following modules:
Year 1 (Level 4)
LSC-10081 Animal Biology
LSC-10083 Ecology and Plant Biology
LSC-10085 Fundamentals of Biology
Year 2 (Level 5)
LSC-20062 Living Together
LSC-20071 Animal Adaptations
LSC-20076 Learning and Memory
LSC-20078 Neuroscience Research Methods
Year 3 (Level 6)
LSC-30042 Current Research Topics in Neuroscience
LSC-30045 Double Experimental Project (with research skills assessment)
LSC-30066 Tropical Biology Field Course*
LSC-30074 Behavioural Ecology*
* - serve or plan to start serving as a module manager
Subject areas where my expertise fits best for teaching and supervising students:
Neuroscience (specifically, Behavioural and Sensory Neuroscience, Special Senses)
Other teaching activities in Keele University
I am developing and teaching a series of workshops “Data Analysis using R programming”. It is primarily designed for post-graduate students and members of staff across the university but highly motivated undergraduate students are welcome (subject to room space availability if the teaching is delivered face to face but the space is not an issue if delivered online). The access to online teaching material (e.g., slides, video sessions and supplementary materials) are available to all Keele students and staff on a request (just email me).
Full Publications Listshow
[Magnetoreception systems in birds: a review of current research]. Zh Obshch Biol, 104-123, vol. 75(2). link>2014.
Nature’s GPS: A vision-based compass and trigeminal-based map in birds? In The 33rd Annual Meeting of the J.B. Johnston Club for Evolutionary Neuroscience and the 25th Annual Karger Workshop in Evolutionary Neuroscience. Brain, Behavior and Evolution, 250-256, vol. 81(4). doi>2013.
Modern trends in study of avian orientation and navigation. ZOOLOGICHESKY ZHURNAL, 342-367, vol. 85(3). link>2006.
Migratory orientation of juvenile Pied Flycatchers (Ficedula hypoleuca L.) from the Eastern Baltic. Ornithologia.2006.
Song of Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus (Aves, Sylviidae) as an acoustic marker of wetland habitat during migration. Russian Journal of Zoology.2005.
Juvenile dispersal in Reed Warblers (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) at night. Avian Ecology and Behaviour.2000.
Navigation by extrapolation of geomagnetic cues in a migratory songbird. Current Biology.
Eurasian Reed Warblers compensate for longitudinal displacement during spring migration. JOURNAL OF ORNITHOLOGY (p. 148, vol. 147). link>2006.
Students and postdocs
My research team is looking for students who wish to undertake MPhil and/or PhD in Neuroscience postgraduate studies at Keele. Interested students can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss potential projects, financing and application procedures for these degrees.
More senior researchers (holding PhD or equivalent) are also welcome to get in touch to discuss potential collaboration. They can be interested in writing a joint grant application or even join a running/starting soon grant(s) as a Post-Doctoral Research Assistant (PDRA in the UK). You can even be a more independent researcher hosted in my lab as a research fellow (let me know if interested and we discuss specific funding schemes). If interested please get in touch using the email to discuss concrete projects and proposals, and I will do my best to find research funding bodies, funding schemes, and other sources of financing and support tailored for your circumstances.
My main research themes and projects are described on the “Research and Scholarship” tab but it does not list everything I am interested in and doing. If you have your own ideas and proposals or are keen to join the team but do not see an exact project suiting your needs, there is a room for discussion of alternative projects. I have experience and am open for field- and lab-based projects in the UK and overseas.