The movement and foraging ecology of Procellariiform seabirds 2019/2020

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

Project: Research

Project Details

Project Description

Procellariiform seabirds (albatrosses, shearwaters, and petrels) spend most of their lives at sea, only coming to land to breed. Despite the high seabird diversity in the South Pacific, studies on the spatial ecology of Procellariiform seabirds in the region are rare. In particular, petrels in the genus Pterodroma are poorly studied and little is known about the areas they use for foraging.
Using satellite and geolocation tracking technology, diet study, and food web signals coded in blood and feathers, my project will reveal the movement and foraging ecology of the common and wide-ranging Black-winged Petrel (Pterodroma nigripennis) and the rare and range-restricted White-necked Petrel (P. cervicalis). I use these two species as exemplars for what drives seabird movement ecology in the tropical South Pacific.
In my PhD research, I will conduct fieldwork on remote Phillip Island (Norfolk Island Group) to reveal the two species’ foraging and movement ecology during breeding and post-breeding periods. By building species distribution models, I will test what oceanographic and biophysical factors are drivers of movement in Pterodroma petrels. With the data I collect, I will answer the following questions: where are the species’ foraging grounds? What are the traits in their choice of foraging that set them apart as rare and common? How have Black-winged Petrels managed to expand their range and population size while many other Pterodroma petrel populations are declining?
In the first year of my PhD, I will gather some of the first tracking data for these species anywhere in the world, collect diet samples and data on breeding success. These initial data will inform modelling to determine the oceanographic parameters that influence foraging patterns of each species using Maxent modelling and Boosted Regression Trees. Subsequent work will incorporate measures of annual variability in foraging areas; and test the utility of several tracking technologies for delineating foraging areas during breeding.
Effective start/end date1/07/191/07/20