Oceanographic features (e.g. fronts, gyres and eddies) are known to aggregate pelagic forage fish and thereby shape the space use of marine predators. These features are dynamic and changes in their characteristics (e.g. strength, persistence, position) has consequences for prey availability. Less well known is how variation in oceanographic conditions influence the fine-scale foraging behaviours of marine predators, such as their diving behaviour and drive variation in diet. For breeding seabirds, variation in prey intake and diet strongly influences the growth and ultimately survival of their chicks. The Manx shearwater (Puffinus puffinus) is a small pelagic diving seabird known to forage in close association with oceanographic features, but there is a significant knowledge gap surrounding their diet. Field work will take place on Bardsey Island (North Wales) which hosts a shearwater colony of >20,000 breeding pairs. The population has grown by >80% since 2010, but this has been coupled with declines in productivity since the late 1990’s. This exciting multidisciplinary PhD will quantify the key environmental and mechanistic drivers of shearwater chick growth offering training in biologging, eDNA analysis, seabird handling, extensive remote field work (6 weeks/year), and physical oceanography. Specifically, the project will quantify the association and interaction between physical ocean features and shearwater foraging depth, effort, meal size and diet composition, and the subsequent consequences for chick growth. Supervisory and modelling support will be based at Bangor University (Drs Line Cordes, Amy Ellison, Steph Harris, and Peter Robins) with field work training provided through the Bardsey Bird and Field Observatory.
Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in subjects such as Ecology, Biology, or Environmental Science. Applicants with Masters degrees or those with relevant research experience and field training (e.g. data management, statistics, GIS, animal tracking, animal handling) will be highly competitive.
For further details, or to enquire about eligibility, please send a short statement regarding your background and interest in the project, and a CV to Dr Line Cordes (email@example.com).