Yosef Kiat is one of the top birders in Israel. His involvement for almost 20 years with the Jerusalem Bird Observatory and the Israel Ornithological Center forms the background to a distinguished career researching avian evolution. Dr. Kiat is particularly interested in molting, an essential process for renewing feathers which, unlike claws and hair, are not renewed continuously from their base. When feathers are damaged, they can no longer provide thermoregulation, visual communication, camouflage, or aerodynamic performance.
During his PhD in the Department of Evolutionary and Environmental Biology at the University of Haifa, Dr. Kiat measured more than 10,000 specimens in museum and university collections around the world, studying diverse aspects of the biology of feather molting, including how juvenile and adult birds, as well as males and females, molt differently as a result of climate warming; how molting changes at different elevations, and how male birds molt differently depending on their plumage coloration. He also reconstructed the evolutionary history of molting, suggesting that it began at least 50 million years before modern birds first evolved.
For his postdoc at the Field Museum in Chicago, one of the best natural history museums in the US, Dr. Kiat turns to paleontology to elucidate the evolutionary history of plumage and feather molt in feathered Mesozoic birds and non-avian dinosaurs. By studying specimens in collections in China and the US, Dr. Kiat hopes to expand our knowledge of the ecology and flight ability of these extinct species, as well as shed light on the evolution of this process in modern birds.