Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
My research interests focus on the behaviour and habitat use of marine vertebrates at sea. Using biologging technologies to track marine predators, I investigate the factors that affect their movement strategies and how they interact with their environment. I am particularly interested in how behavioural strategies develop in juvenile animals, and how we can quantify these behaviours from animal movement data using emerging statistical modelling techniques.
I am currently working on a project funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to provide UK-wide distribution maps based on habitat preference for both grey and harbour seals. This study will determine regional similarities and differences in resource selection for both species. In addition, we will update current knowledge on where seals acquire the foraging resources required for breeding, and how seals use man-made structures such as windfarms, oil and gas platforms and pipelines.
In my PhD at the University of Plymouth (in collaboration with SMRU), I investigated how grey seal pups develop foraging behaviour and habitat preference. Using tracking and dive data from pups tagged at colonies in Scotland and Wales, I examined how diving behaviour and movement strategies develop over the first four months of nutritional independence; a time when pups are at increased risk of starvation. I found that male and female pups develop contrasting strategies from the first weeks after leaving the colony. However, this sex difference was only observed in Wales, suggesting that regional environmental factors influence the emergence of sex-specific behaviour. A large element of the study was to implement a novel statistical modelling tool to infer behaviour from movement data whilst accounting for the fact that movement characteristics of foraging and travelling change over time as pups develop.
In my MSc thesis at the University of Exeter (Cornwall Campus), I investigated the at-sea behaviour and habitat use of northern gannets at a large breeding colony in Wales. My research showed that both male and female breeding birds raft on the water surface adjacent to the colony before and after foraging trips. These findings have relevance for conservation, supporting a proposed seaward extension to the Special Protection Area (SPA), designed to protect important marine habitat for breeding gannets.
(source: symbiosis database)