PhD projects

  • Migratory connectivity of Arctic long-distance migratory seabirds [Rob van Bemmelen]

Conservation goals for migratory birds can only be achieved if the full migration cycle between breeding and non-breeding is understood. In this project we aim to elucidate the migration of an elusive (and therefore poorly studied) group of bird species: long-distance migratory Arctic-breeding seabirds, some of which even undertake the epic journey between the Arctic and seas around Antarctica. Combining the recently developed technical tracking devices and isotope signatures analysis of feathers, opens the possibility to map resource use along individual migratory routes. Such information can be used to identify productive areas and areas of high conservation value. Capitalising on international collaboration we have the unique possibility to carry out simultaneous field studies at five Arctic sites on four different seabird species: Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus, Long-tailed Skua S. longicaudus, Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea and Red-necked Phalarope Phalaropus lobatus. These species cover different trophic levels (phalaropes low, terns and skuas high) and functions in both the marine and tundra ecosystems, but all share the same breeding areas. Especially in the light of expected developments in the Arctic (climate change, increase in shipping, oil and gas extraction, increase in fishing pressure), a thorough understanding of the connectivity of the Arctic with the oceans further south is paramount in conservation planning.

This project is funded by NWO and will cover the period 2014-2019.

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