Professor Rory Wilson is Head of the Department of Biosciences within Swansea University’s College of Science.
His research reflects his interest in how free-living animals modulate the energetic costs they have for activities (including incidences, extents and intensities of activities) according to their environment and particularly how animals manage their time and energy to forage most effectively.
Most of his research focuses on seabirds, especially penguins, but he is also involved in work with marine mammals, turtles, terrestrial and arboreal mammals and terrestrial birds.
His research has been funded by organisations including National Geographic, the Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals, Wildlife Computers and the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, and he works with research collaborations in South Africa, Argentina, Costa Rica, Australia and Europe.
In 2006 Professor Wilson was awarded a Rolex Award for Enterprise to develop and test an electronic tag to track the movement of marine and land animals. Now rolled out commercially, the ‘Daily Diary’ has revolutionised animal tracking and was used extensively by National Geographic in the production of their ‘Great Migrations’ series on which Professor Wilson acted as Chief Scientific Advisor.
Professor Rory Wilson was the lead consulting scientist for the National Geographic's groundbreaking series, Great Migrations.
This work, which involved filming the migrations of species located on all continents, was the most ambitious in National Geographic's 122 year history and received widespread critical acclaim.
There are four core hours documenting the migrations of animals as diverse as butterflies and Sperm whales and three additional hours featuring behind the scenes filming, the science of migrations and images of the moving animals to music. Professor Wilson was involved in multiple pre-screening events including in Los Angeles, New York, Washington and Kenya.
Professor Wilson leads Swansea's Smart Tag research team whose research has revealed some surprising secrets about the way animals including elephant seals, penguins, cormorants, whales, and sharks live. The team found, for example, that whale sharks, the largest fish on the planet, save energy during swimming by diving and rising in the water column in a series of waves in much the same way as the many tiny song birds that grace our gardens.
They also documented how penguins use their natural buoyancy to shoot up from the depths to allow them to catch fast, elusive fish with little or no effort and the extraordinary graceful underwater ballet of the world’s deepest diving pinnipeds, elephant seals, otherwise best known for their bloody fights interspaced with lethargy on their breeding beaches.