My research interests are centred on seeking to better understand the rules which govern decisions made by birds in flight and the environmental conditions which prompt them. The enormous spatial and temporal variability in the atmosphere results in a highly complex system which we are far from fully understanding, so I am continuously excited and provoked by the sophisticated ways in which many species navigate the sky. I seek to find the patterns in flight movement that enable us to understand and predict the behavioural response of birds to an ever changing environment, ultimately forecasting the routes they will take in order to better adapt human activity to accommodate them.
Throughout my thesis I will be working with GPS animal tracking data as part of the UvA-BiTs project to model various flight paths and behaviours. I aim to identify decision making patterns in fine scale behaviour based on resource availability, which includes the energetic savings made by soaring on atmospheric updrafts such as thermals and orographic lift. Thanks to their dynamic use of flight modes, highly adaptive behavioural strategies, and large range of favoured habitats, the lesser black backed gull presents itself as a highly suitable study species for this type of work. My methods will involve developing models which analyse commuting flights between colonies and foraging areas with respect to local atmospheric motion alongside those which assess the consistency of foraging decisions made by individuals. Additionally by making comparisons of flight at land versus flight at sea I hope to determine some of the contributing motives which are driving foraging gulls further inland, to towns, waste dumps, and agricultural areas.
My PhD is undertaken in collaboration with gemini offshore wind park in order to investigate the impact of wind parks built in proximity to breeding seabird colonies. This will be carried out by modelling flight paths specifically through wind park areas with an aim of calculating the collision risk between individual birds and turbines. Our hope is to provide useful information the industry on bird impact mitigation at both the planning and operational stages of wind park development.