Spatial Ecology of Pterodroma Petrels

  • Halpin, Luke Robin (Primary Chief Investigator (PCI))
  • Clarke, Rohan (Supervisor)

Project: Research

Project Details

Project Description

Seabirds are wide-ranging top marine predators that face a variety of anthropogenic threats. Seabirds are considered good indicators of the state of marine ecosystems because their reproductive output, survival and abundance varies in response to fluctuating oceanographic conditions. Anthropogenic activities such as pollution, climate change and fisheries pressure have altered the structure and stability of ocean ecosystems, which may affect the long-term persistence of seabirds. In particular, there is a paucity of knowledge about the ecology of tropical seabirds. For example, we know very little about tropical seabird interactions with the marine environment, which often occurs at great distances from breeding colonies. This makes it difficult to inform protected area designation and predict how tropical seabird populations will respond to environmental changes. Further research is needed not only to investigate tropical seabird foraging ecology, but also to validate the position accuracy of technologies used to track seabirds and design protected areas, about which substantial uncertainty exists. To achieve improved understanding of tropical seabirds I am using Pterodroma petrels on the Norfolk Island Group as exemplars. Further study is needed to:
(A) test the reliability of tracking technologies used to track wide-ranging marine species;
(B) determine environmental drivers of movement in tropical seabirds, exploring how
movements will be affected by climatic changes, and;
(C) test whether non-breeding movement strategies differ between two sympatric seabirds to identify conservation implications.
In 2020, my research program includes a field season on Norfolk Island, which facilitates exploration of annual variability in foraging movements, and the collection data loggers (deployed in 2019) to explore migratory movements. By July 2020, I will re-submit my first peer-reviewed manuscript to the journal, Methods in Ecology & Evolution in response to initial positive reviews.
My overall goals for this PhD are to:
A) improve knowledge of the tracking technologies used to study movements of top marine predators;
B) improve the community’s knowledge of tropical seabird movement ecology; and
C) develop strong collaborative relationships with governments, non-profits and academic institutions in Australia and abroad to inform effective conservation strategies that improve outcomes for seabirds.
Effective start/end date1/11/2031/12/21