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PhD studentship on crested penguins

Norman Ratcliffe, December 15, 2018


Quantifying the ecological factors under-pinning population trends in crested penguins

The Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania has been awarded the BOU’s 2018 John and Pat Warham studentship for PhD studies into seabirds. IMAS, in conjunction with National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand and the British Antarctic Survey in the UK, is seeking to recruit a PhD student from a Commonwealth country to study the foraging ecology of crested penguins, starting in mid 2019.

Project description.

The crested penguins (genus Eudyptes) are conspicuous and charismatic components of island ecosystems throughout the Southern Ocean. Regionally, the five species exhibit contrasting population trajectories, although none are thought to be increasing: rockhopper, erect-crested and Fiordland penguins are declining, whereas Snares and royal penguins appear stable. Indeed, excepting royal penguin, all are classified as ‘endangered’ or ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List. The ecological processes under-pining these trajectories are poorly understood, but issues such as changing resource base through completion, fisheries interactions or changing climates are likely to be key factors. Our capacity to address all of these issues is limited by our scant knowledge of habitat use and spatial dynamics, not least because penguins’ uses of marine systems and resources will likely respond to a changing marine environment, resulting from human activities, in ways that are currently difficult to predict. This PhD will address this significant data knowledge gap. The project will be underpinned by geolocation data, yielding year-round location, distribution and penguin track information. Data are available for Snares penguin (Snares Islands) and rockhopper penguin (Campbell Island), and there is logistic support in place to acquire the same data for erect-crested penguin at the Bounty and Antipodes islands, rockhopper penguin at Antipodes, Campbell and Macquarie islands over the course of the scholarship. Furthermore, we will also have access to similar data sets for a large proportion of crested penguin populations outside Australasia, providing a near-complete global marine distribution picture for the Eudyptes genus. These data would enable us to comprehensively examine the extent to which species exhibit spatial overlap or segregation, quantify differences in habitat preference and assess how varying distributions and habitat preferences affect exposure to threats and, therefore, contribute to differences in population trends. These data will be augmented with stable isotope dietary techniques.

This studentship is only available to Commonwealth citizens. The successful candidate should have:

• An MSc or equivalent (e.g. first class Honours in Australia)

• A good knowledge of R, especially spatial analysis

• Field experience working with wildlife

Please send applications (cover letter, CV and contact details of two referees) to Prof Mark Hindell, +61 3 6225 2645

Applications close 15 March 2019