October 10, 2017

Effects of electromagnetic noise on the orientation of migratory birds

Effects of electromagnetic noise on the orientation of migratory birds

Animals face many challenges as increased urbanization impacts their ability to survive and reproduce. Nowhere is this more evident than in migratory birds. Throughout Europe evidence indicates that populations of migratory birds are declining. Many anthropogenic influences are implicated, such as land use and climate change. However, recently, a new and surprising potential hazard to bird migration has emerged. A recent discovery revealed that anthropogenically produced electromagnetic noise (EMN) such as that produced by electrical items or AM radio towers disrupted normal orientation of migratory songbirds. Specifically, it was the ability to use the magnetic compass that was disrupted. Given that the ability to orient and navigate thousands of miles between breeding and winter grounds is a crucial aspect of migratory behaviour, it is imperative that we understand how this EMN impacts their ability to plot a safe migratory course in the wild. This project will investigate how the magnetic compass is integrated into the navigation system of migrating birds, and how disrupting that with EMN affects their ability to orient. It will use experimental techniques to study animal behaviour in controlled conditions with varying access to environmental cues. Through collaboration with CASE partner the British Trust for Ornithology it will also use ecological analyses to assess how EMN may impact on current migratory routes. Hosted in the School of Biological sciences in Bangor University, but with fieldwork components in Austria and with the BTO across the UK and potentially beyond, the project will provide training in both experimental and field based skills, statistical and ecological analysis, and the application of physics to understand biological systems. The successful candidate will become a highly skilled interdisciplinary graduate with skills in experimental analysis of behaviour, field skills in ornithology, analysis of ecological metadata and the application of physics to biological systems.

Applicants should hold a minimum of a 2:1 degree in a biological or environmental science discipline. Due to the multidisciplinary nature of the project, those holding a physical sciences degree with relevant experience and a desire to work in biological sciences are also welcome to apply. Experience of fieldwork on or of handling wild birds is highly desirable (although not essential), particularly if the applicant is training for or in possession of a BTO ringers permit.

For informal enquiries please contact Dr. Richard Holland (, tel: +44 1248382344, twitter: @bgyraho,