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Dr Francesca Mackenney

Research Associate

School of English, Communication and Philosophy

John Percival Building, Room 3.40, Colum Drive, Cardiff, CF10 3EU


I am a Research Associate on an AHRC-funded collaborative project, jointly hosted by Humboldt Universität zu Berlin and Cardiff University, 'The Sound of Nature: Soundscapes and Environmental Awareness, 1750-1950'

My first book, Birdsong, Speech and Poetry: The Art of Composition in the Long Nineteenth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2023), explores how scientists, musicians and poets have interpreted the everyday mystery of birdsong. While my interest in birdsong remains important to me, my current work turns to the strange sounds and antics of wetland birds in the mating season: the booming of the bittern, the drumming of the snipe and the 'peewit' of the lapwing. Like so many other things about wetlands, these peculiar mating rituals may tell us something about the evolutionary origins of our 'sense of the beautiful' as well as how important aesthetic tastes have proved in determining what is valuable and worth conserving in the natural world. Alongside my research, my attention has focused on exploring the role that poetry can play in environmental education. During lockdown, I created an educational podcast about birdsong for young people (