My DPhil thesis focused on the behavioural ecology of pelagic seabirds both at sea and on the breeding colony. Recent advances in data logging technology mean we are able to build a comprehensive description of movement behaviour throughout the migratory and reproductive phases of several seabird species. Most of this research was carried out on the burrow nesting Manx shearwater, Puffinus puffinus, based on Skomer Island (South Pembrokeshire), although my work took me to several islands around the Irish Sea. I use three different bird-borne loggers (GPS, geolocators and TDRs) often in combination, to determine spatial and behavioural activity while an individual bird is away on foraging trips or during migration. In addition to my work on Manx shearwaters, I have extensive tracking and ringing experience with other seabird species including: Flesh-footed shearwater Puffinus carneipes, Atlantic puffin Fratercula arctica, common guillemot Uria aalge, razorbill Alca torda, lesser black-back gull Larus fuscus and black-legged kittiwake Rissa tridactyla.
My main research interest is investigating the annual behavioural cycle of these birds, especially the relationship between different migratory strategies and breeding behaviour. Using both colony based and at-sea data I look for behavioural patterns within individuals, whole colonies and across different years. To do this I collected spatial and salt water immersion data from shearwaters using geolocators, like the one pictured right. Using pattern recognition methods derived from machine learning, I have identified different behaviours taking place during the migration and breeding phases of the Manx shearwater annual cycle. These techniques have been applied to data collected from five of the main UK breeding colonies.
Since finishing my PhD, I have been working with Wildlife Management International (WMIL, New Zealand) on mapping foraging distributions for the Flesh-footed shearwater. We are currently applying new modelling techniques for predicting the utilization densities (UD) of this species from GPS tracking data. I recently presented the preliminary results of this work at the Australasian Ornithological Conference (AOC 2019) in Darwin.