Avian algorithms

15th February 2008 at 00:00

A precocious young maths student may be able to use his talent to pursue an interest in birds. Twelve-year-old Jun Nakamaru-Pinder, a pupil at Aberdeen's Harlaw Academy, hit the headlines last July after winning a place in the top 50 of the prestigious Junior Maths Olympiad.

During one of his press interviews, he explained that he wanted to be an ornithologist, but didn't think there was much maths in ornithology.

Mandy Tulloch, development co-ordinator at Aberdeen University's natural history centre, heard his interview and decided to contact Jun's mother, Fumi, and Harlaw headteacher John Murray. She invited Jun to the school of biological sciences to show him how his talent could be used in that area. Jun spent an afternoon last week hearing about ornithological and mathematical research.

Research fellow Jane Reid gave Jun a bird-ringing demonstration. She studies sparrow, chough and starling colonies to see how behaviour, genes and the environment affect their numbers.

Xavier Lambin, professor of ecology, explained how he used maths and statistics to help his research into predator-prey relationships.

A student facilitator at the centre, Shawn Webster, chatted to Jun about his time on the remote Orcadian island of Eynhallow. He took part in one of the longest-running research projects in the world, looking into the ecology of the fulmar seabird (pictured).

Jun, who is originally from Japan but has lived in Scotland since he was a baby, started using a calculator at the age of two and, when he started school, teachers noticed he was much more advanced than other pupils.

He has already passed his Standard grade exam and is on course to complete Higher maths three years earlier than most pupils.

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