My research focuses on spatial ecology, on topics dealing with behavioural ecology, life-history and population dynamics. I mostly work on colonial seabirds, addressing a range of questions from understanding the drivers of migration and the consequences of migratory strategies on individual fitness and population dynamics, to investigating foraging niche differentiation in sympatric species, or the mechanisms of carry-over effects in migratory species. To address these questions I use a combination of bird-borne tracking loggers, video cameras, field experiments and the use of machine-learning techniques to analyse large individual datasets to identify behavioural patterns in these datasets. I work with mutliple seabird species across the North Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans.
The findings of my research also have conservation implications, and I collaborate with other researchers and NGOs to help inform conservation decisions, such as the design of Marine Protected Areas.
Here are some examples of projects I am currently working on.
Atlantic puffins’ movement ecology
I have been studying puffins since I started my DPhil. My main study site is Skomer Island in Wales. Since 2011 I have been leading a long-term study into their migration movements, using miniature tracking devices (geolocators) to follow their movements and behaviour during the non-breeding season, in order to understand the drivers of their migratory patterns. Additionally, I have recently completed another project investigating the foraging ecology of puffins across the eastern North Atlantic (Wales, Norway, and Iceland), with the aim to understand the drivers of dramatic population declines in the northern part of their range, the findings of which were published in the Journal of Animal Ecology in 2021 (see Publications).
This project was started as a collaboration with Prof Tim Guilford and Prof Chris Perrins (University of Oxford).
Ecology of tropicbirds in the Indian Ocean
I study the ecology of white-tailed and red-tailed tropicbirds in Seychelles, on Aldabra Atoll (outer Seychelles) and Aride Island (inner Seychelles). This project aims to fill a gap in the currently poor knowledge of the species’ ecology, including their foraging ecology during breeding, their non-breeding movements and the timing of their annual cycles. I also investigate their breeding biology, in particular to identify the main causes of breeding failure and mechanisms to avoid interspecific competition.
This project is a collaboration with they Seychelles Islands Foundation (Dr Nancy Bunbury), the Island Conservation Society and the University of Seychelles (Dr Gerard Rocamora).
Individual specialisation and foraging ecology of black guillemots
This project uses long-term datasets collected at SEAPOP sites in the Norwegian Sea to study the feeding habits of black guillemots during breeding. We aim to understand the extent of individual specialisation in the population and how this may vary between individuals and years. We also investigate how environmental conditions near colonies shape the feeding behvaiour and diet of black guillemots. Ultimately this will help us understand whether feeding observations of black guillemots can be used as indicators of the abundance of key fish species.
This is a project in collaboration with Dr Tycho Anker-Nilssen and Dr Nina Dehnhard at NINA.
Drivers of life-history decisions in long-lived birds
This project investigates drivers of breeding decisions in long-lived birds and the nature and duration of their carry-over effects on birds and their breeding success. It combines field experiments manipulating the cost of events in the annual cycle of Manx shearwaters and biologging to track the birds’ response over time.
Ultimately, we hope to use these results to help predict future breeding decisions and their fitness consequences, based on internal and external variables, which could be used to predict populations’ responses to different scenarios.
Homing navigation in nocturnal seabirds
This project aims to understand how nocturnal seabirds navigate back to their nest from their foraging trips during the breeding season, and which cues they rely on. It combines high resolution tracking with experiments to displace the birds or alter their ability to rely on particular sensory cues. To compare the use of navigation cues between different habitats, I conduct this research on Manx shearwaters breeding in Wales and streaked shearwaters in Japan.
This is a project in collaboration with Dr Akiko Shoji (Tsukuba University) and Dr Ken Yoda (Nagoya University).
Ecology of Jamaica’s endemic parrots
This project is led by Dr Lydia Gibson (UCL) and in collaboration with Dr F. Gözde Çilingir (University of Zurich) and focuses on two endemic parrots, the yellow-billed and black-billed parrot (the latter an endangered species).
Our project has two main objectives. One is to study the parrots’ spatial ecology and population genetic structure. The other is to understand the factors that promote longevity in conservation research, by training and involving local stakeholders in parrot monitoring methodologies, and creating databases and resource pools to encourage long-term national and regional collaboration.