Recent advancements in telemetry technology has dramatically enhanced our understanding of movement ecology, and generated novel opportunities for exploring how animals are responding to a rapidly changing world. Most animals depend on movement to locate and acquire food for growth, maintenance and offspring provisioning. Therefore, success of individual foraging strategies underpins the demographic processes of survival and reproduction.
As central place foragers with wide ranging movement patterns across patchy marine resources, seabirds are particularly interesting in this context. However, climate change is altering the distribution, structure, and predictability of many prey communities, and the subsequent costs of different foraging strategies. The population-level consequences are often poorly understood as these depend upon rare opportunities where multi-annual tracking data of the same individuals can be integrated with life history and demographic information.
This PhD will explore these issues by using geolocation tracking data collected from >100 individual fulmars over the past 10 years and simultaneous life history and demographic data from a unique 65 year individual-based study in Orkney. Further fieldwork will be undertaken to deploy novel triaxial accelerometry GPS tags to assess flight energetics. The candidate will explore the drivers, repeatability, and plasticity of different foraging strategies under differing environmental conditions, and determine their relative energetic costs and demographic consequences.
This project offers a unique opportunity for research training in the use of novel telemetry technology, seabird handling, remote fieldwork, and the application of different modelling approaches (spatial, mixed, state-space, and mark–recapture) to address current conservation issues. Supervisory and modelling support will be based at Bangor University (Drs Line Cordes & Charles Bishop), with additional training provided through a collaboration with the University of Aberdeen (Prof Paul Thompson).
Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in an ecological subject. Applicants with Masters degrees, or those with relevant research experience and field training will be highly competitive (e.g. animal handling, tracking, spatial statistics, mark-recapture). Prior exposure to statistical modelling and managing large data sets is desirable. The candidate should also be willing to undertake fieldwork in remote places.