Arctic Isotopes and Seals

I am currently working on a project examining the ecosystem impacts of Arctic climate change. As the most abundant seal in the North Atlantic, harp seals are a key part of the Arctic ecosystem but are vulnerable to changes in sea ice conditions. Using a range of techniques including ocean biochemistry, compound-specific stable isotope analysis and bio-logging, we are building a picture of how the Arctic ocean is changing and how harp seals have adapted.

For more information check out the project website.

Collaborators -

Dr Sophie Smout / University of St Andrews

Prof Claire Mahaffey / University of Liverpool


Understanding the ontogeny of foraging behaviour

The way that an animal moves and interacts with it's environment is a fundemental, yet poorly understood process. Many long-lived species exhibit delayed maturity, and during this period individuals gain foraging experience before recruiting into the breeding population. Understanding age-related differences in movement patterns and foraging behaviours is therefore a key question.

In our recent paper published in Journal of the Royal Society Interface, we use high-resolution GPS-loggers to track the fine-scale movements of immature and adult northern gannets (Morus bassanus). We then combined this data with state-switching models and remotely sensed environmental data, to examine how foraging behaviour differed between these two groups. You can read the paper here.

Collaborators - 

Prof Keith Hamer / University of Leeds

Théo Michelot / University of Sheffield

Devon trawler.jpg

Biodiversity conservation in upwelling regions

Upwelling regions are highly productive habitats targeted by wide-ranging marine predators and industrial fisheries. These areas support large communities of fish and a wide-range of apex marine predators that may migrate many thousand kilometres to utilise these areas during the non-breeding period. However, these areas face unprecedented levels of anthropogenic-driven pressures from commercial fisheries.

In our recent paper published in Biology Letters, we track the migratory movements of 8 species of seabird from across the Atlantic; quantify overlap with the Canary Current Large Marine Ecosystem (CCLME) and determine the habitat characteristics that drive this association. The non-breeding period is a vital element of the annual cycle, and so understanding the interactions between marine vertebrates and the threats they face at the wintering grounds is paramount to conservation efforts. You can read the paper here.

Collaborators - 

Dr Steve Votier / University of Exeter

Dr Jacob González-Solís / Universitat de Barcelona


Click below to hear an interview on BBC Radio Scotland's 'Good Morning Scotland' 

Climate change impacts on seabird migration

Climate change has shifted the distribution of many plankton species toward the poles. This is a challenge for those species that rely on plankton as prey. The aim of the project was to examine the winter distribution of a group of planktivorous seabirds called prions using miniaturised tracking devices, and compare that with historical distributions inferred from museum specimens. Using this information we will be better placed to understand how seabirds may respond to the effects of climate change.

In our recent paper published in Marine Ecology Progress Series, we find evidence to support an interesting difference in how migratory patterns may have shifted for two of these species. You can read the paper here.

Collaborators - 

Prof. Bob Furness / University of Glasgow

Dr Richard Phillips / British Antarctic Survey

Graeme Taylor / New Zealand Department for Conservation

Marine predators and human activities around the Falklands

The Falkland Islands hold internationally important populations of marine predators, including the worlds largest population of gentoo penguins. I am collaborating with the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute to understand how marine predators such as penguins may interact with the emerging oil industry.

Collaborators -

Dr Megan Tierney / South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute

Dr Alastair Baylis / South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute

Sanda razorbill

Understanding the diet of UK marine birds

I'm involved in the Marine Ecosystems Research Programme a project that is bringing researchers from across the UK together in order to improve our understanding of the whole UK marine ecosystem. I have been collating data on the diet of UK marine birds that will then be integrated into large-scale ecosystem models.

Collaborators - 

Dr Ruedi Nager / University of Glasgow

Causes and consequences of migratory strategies

In marine ecosystems resources may be highly predictable at large scales, where features such as shelf-edges, frontal zones and upwellings enhance productivity. While there is a great deal of diversity in animal migratory patterns, many individuals exhibit long-term fidelity to particular wintering areas. This may allow them to target particularly productive areas. However, little is known of the development and consequence of these migratory decisions.

Collaborators - 

Dr Steve Votier / University of Exeter 

Ecological impacts of Marine Renewable Energy Developments

The recent expansion of the renewable energy sector into the marine environment has lots of potential benefits in terms of energy generation, however the ecological impact of many of these technologies is largely unknown. I am involved in a number of projects that have begun to quantify this in the UK.

Collaborators - 

Dr Matthew Witt / University of Exeter