I am a PhD candidate studying animal movement modelling. My research focuses on the fine-scale habitat use of the Critically Endangered flapper skate (Dipturus intermedius) in relation to the Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura Marine Protected Area (West Scotland).
The flapper skate
The flapper skate is a large, apex predator that undergone drastic declines in abundance and distribution across much of its former range, becoming the first marine species to be declared “locally extinct” from an area. A refugial population remains off West Scotland, where the flapper skate has become the designation feature of the only Marine Protected Area specifically designated for the conservation of an elasmobranch in the UK. To understand the efficacy of the Marine Protected Area as a conservation measure for a large, mobile species, such as the flapper skate, it is necessary to understand skate habitat use, behaviour and fine-scale habitat preferences. My research involves using cutting-edge spatiotemporal models to make inferences about these aspects of skate spatial ecology from passive acoustic telemetry and data storage tag data, together with a high-resolution hydrodynamic model (WeStCOMS) and other environmental data from the West coast of Scotland.
The main aims of this project are as follows:
Home ranges I. To estimate skate home ranges and to understand the factors driving spatiotemporal variation in home range size and locations.
Detection probability. To understand the factors driving spatiotemporal variation in detection probability within the passive acoustic telemetry array.
Home ranges II. To understand the extent to which home range estimates and habitat preferences are improved in models accounting for spatiotemporal variation in detection probability.
Depth-specific periodic behaviours. To understand the factors driving spatiotemporal variation in skate’s use of the water column.
Central foraging behaviour. To understand the extent to which flapper skate show central foraging behaviour and the drivers of this behaviour.
I am supervised by:
I am jointly funded by SNH (Scottish Natural Heritage), through MASTS (the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology in Scotland) and CREEM (the Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling). I gratefully acknowledge additional funding from Shark Guardian. I am also a member of the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology in Scotland Graduate School.
Photo courtesy of Ian Stevenson.
(source: symbiosis database)