Ever more species face extinction due to changing climate or human encroachment. Insufficient food is often the proximal cause but why don't animals just work harder when resources are sparse? Predators rely on energy gained in brief encounters with prey to grow and reproduce. But observing predator-prey interactions is technically challenging for the large predators that shape marine ecosystems and it is unclear whether the density or quality of prey, or the capabilities of predators most constrain the energy gained from foraging. In this project, I will use unique high-resolution remote-sensing tags on whales, seals, and sharks to test how individuals cope with changing prey resources. The project draws on methods in engineering, ecology and computer science to interpret foraging interactions at an unprecedented resolution. The study species represent animals that mediate vast energy turnovers in the world's oceans and so influence marine food webs. Knowing what resources these predators need to thrive will pinpoint the potential impact of human activities and may help us manage vulnerable populations rather than discover they are at risk when it is already too late.
Following a PhD in electronics engineering in New Zealand, I moved to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the USA and then to the University of St Andrews, Scotland. My interests centre on measuring animal behaviour in the wild particularly sensory ecology, foraging, and predator-prey interactions. To do this I develop miniature data-logging tags to record sound and movement of animals as well as acoustic monitoring devices to detect vocal animals.
From dinner to winner: How individual foraging performance determines success in marine megafauna
Area of research:
1 October 2020 - 31 March 2022