Dr Joanne Cooper

Jo and Amakihi, Hawaii 2005
  • Curator, Birds
  • Life Sciences department
  • Vertebrates Division
Natural History Museum at Tring
Akeman Street
HP23 6AP



Nov. 2007 – present     Curator of anatomical collections, Bird Group, NHM

Sept. 2006 – Oct. 2007  Studying full time for MA Archaeological Illustration, Swindon College

Oct. 2001 – Aug. 2006   Curator of avian osteological collection, Bird Group, NHM

Nov. 2000 – Aug. 2001  Gallery Host, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand

Feb. 1999 – Jul. 2000   Post-excavation assistant, Gibraltar Caves Project, NHM, London


  • MA Archaeological Illustration, Swindon College & University of Bath, 2006-2007
  • PhD, ‘Late Pleistocene avifaunas of Gibraltar and their palaeoenvironmental significance’  Department of Geology, Royal Holloway University of London & Department of Zoology, the Natural History Museum, 1995-1999
  • BSc Geography & Geology, Royal Holloway University of London, 1992-1995

Expertise and interests

  • Taxonomic identification and interpretation of bird bones
  • Prehistoric archaeology and palaeontology, particularly Late Pleistocene
  • Evolution and extinction of island birds, particularly in the New Zealand region
  • Cultural significance of birds in archaeological and historical settings
  • Charles Darwin’s research on birds, particularly his domestic collections
  • Archaeological and natural history illustration


  • Responsible for the avian anatomical collections (skeleton and spirit)
  • Organising internal and external exhibition loans from the Bird Group, to UK and international venues

Special projects

Darwin's domestic birds

I am currently working on Charles Darwin's large collection of domestic bird skeletons and skins donated to the Museum in the late 1860s.  Although Darwin's bird collections from the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle are well known, his domestic bird specimens have received little attention despite their vital role in the development of his evolutionary ideas and their prominence in On the Origin of Species.  I have been researching Darwin's work on the collection, especially on fancy pigeons, with particular emphasis on linking information from archives and publications back to indvidual specimens in the collection.


Holocene sub-fossil bird remains from Puerto Rico

Identification and interpretation of a substantial collection of fossil birds from a cave site in Puerto Rico, with Phil Rye and Samuel Turvey (Zoological Society of London).  We are interested in discovering if the remains will provide ecological information about the surrounding region.

Bird remains from Taforalt Cave, Morocco

I am working on the bird bones from the Palaeolithic site of Taforalt Cave as part of a large multi-disciplinary team led by Nick Barton (University of Oxford) and Abdeljalil Bouzouggar (Institut National des Sciences de l’Archéologie et du Patrimoine).

British Fossil Birds List

I am a member of the British Ornithologists' Union's committee reviewing the status of birds in the British fossil record for a new category on the British List  that will help us better understand the history of birds in Britain.


Turvey, S T & Cooper, J H 2009.  The past is another country: is evidence for prehistoric, historical and present-day extinctions really comparable? In: Turvey, S T (ed.) Holocene Extinctions.  Oxford University Press.

Cooper, J H & Tennyson, A J D 2008.  Wrecks and residents: the fossil gadfly petrels (Pterodroma spp.) of the Chatham Islands, New Zealand.  Oryctos 7: 227-248.

Cooper, J H 2005.  Pigeons and pelagics: interpreting the Late Pleistocene avifaunas of the continental ‘island’ of Gibraltar.  In: Alcover, J A & Bover, P (eds.): Proceedings of the International Symposium ‘Insular Vertebrate Evolution: the Paleontological Approach’. Monografies de la Societat d’Historia Natural de les Balears 12: 101-112.

Cooper, J H & Adams, M P 2005.  Extinct and endangered bird collections: managing the risk. Zoologische Mededelingen Leiden 79: 123-130.

Cook, A & Cooper, J 2004.  Avian remains in the stomach of Great Cormorant. British Birds 97: 472-473.

Cooper, J H & Tennyson, A J D 2004.  New evidence on the life and death of Hawkins’ rail (Diaphorapteryx hawkinsi): Moriori accounts recorded by Sigvard Dannefaerd and Alexander Shand.  Notornis 51: 212-216.

Cooper, J H & Steinheimer, F D 2003.  Sir Hans Sloane’s Rhinoceros Hornbill skull: an avian remnant from the founding period of the British Museum.  Archives of Natural History 30: 166-167.

Adams, M P, Cooper, J H & Collar, N J 2003.  Extinct and endangered (‘E&E’) birds: a proposed list for collections catalogues.  In: Collar, N. J., Fisher, C. T. & Feare, C. J. (eds.) Why Museums Matter: Avian Archives in an Age of Extinction.  Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club Supplement Vol. 123A: 338-354.

Cooper, J H & Steinheimer, F D 2003.  Why museums matter: report from the workshops 14-15 November 1999 ‘Increased co-operation between bird collections’ In: Collar, N. J., Fisher, C. T. & Feare, C. J. (eds.) Why Museums Matter: Avian Archives in an Age of Extinction.  Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club Supplement Vol. 123A: 355-360.

Cooper, J H 2000.  Old bones and new birds.  Birdwatch 96: 39-41.

Cooper, J H 2000.  First fossil record of Azure-winged Magpie Cyanopica cyanus in Europe.  Ibis 142: 150-151.

Cooper, J H 2000.  A preliminary report on the Late Pleistocene avifauna of Ibex Cave, Gibraltar. In: Finlayson, C., Finlayson, G. & Fa, D. (eds). Gibraltar during the Quaternary.  Gibraltar Government Heritage Publications: 227-232.

Dyke, G J & Cooper, J H 2000.  Description and phylogenetic position of a new psittaciform bird (Aves: Psittaciformes) from the Lower Eocene London Clay of England. Palaeontology 43: 271-285.

Cooper, J H 1999.  Late Pleistocene avifaunas of Gibraltar and their palaeoenvironmental significance. PhD., Royal Holloway, University of London.

Cooper, J H & Voous, K 1999.  Bird bones and biogeography: Iberian Azure-winged Magpies come in from the cold. British Birds 92: 659-665.

Cooper, J H 1996.  Quaternary micromammals from Gorham’s Cave, Gibraltar and their palaeoenvironmental significance.  Almoraima 15: 69-85.