The curious case of asynchronous breeding in tropical seabirds: What drives this reproductive strategy? Leverhulme funded study.
Seabirds are promoted as bio-indicators of marine ecosystem health. However, understanding of the fundamental links between seabird breeding biology and the state of the marine environment is limited. In the tropics, there are marked differences in breeding strategy between closely located colonies of the same and similar species; a phenomenon that is unexplained. This project seeks to determine how environmental and ecological conditions underpin variations in breeding strategy and behaviour at both the individual and population level, which will enhance the use of seabirds as bio-indicators of the marine environment.
Contact: Louise Soanes and Lewis Halsey.
Hyporheic Zone Processes – A training network for enhancing the understanding of complex physical, chemical and biological process interactions (Hypotrain). EU - MSCA-ITN-2014-ETN
Hyporheic zones are key compartments for the functioning of aquatic ecosystems. As dynamic and complex transition regions between rivers and aquifers, they are characterized by the simultaneous occurrence of multiple physical, biological and chemical processes. Turnover and degradation of nutrients and pollutants are among the prominent ecological services the hyporheic zone provides. We are facing a significant knowledge gap in the understanding of how hyporheic processes are linked and how they impact on each other. This can be attributed to a lack of truly supra-disciplinary research and harmonized and innovative investigation methods.
The HypoTRAIN project has been tailored to fill this gap. Collaborative research with state-of-the-art technologies from multiple disciplines (hydrology, ecology, microbiology, engineering, environmental physics, contaminant science, modelling) will generate new mechanistic insights into the functioning of hyporheic zones. A group of 16 PhD students will be educated using the multi-faceted nature of hyporheic zones as the central theme of the training programme. The supra-disciplinary expertise within the network and the high-level training programme will generate scientific knowledge that will enable the development of a more holistic design for river management plans and restoration measures. At Roehampton University, PhD student Ignacio Peralta-Maravers is focussing on linkages between hyporheic productivity, flow paths and hotspots/ moments.
Contact: Anne Robertson and Julia Reiss.
Comparing community size patterns and food web structure in temperate and sub-tropical freshwater systems. NERC funded study NE/M022048/1
This project aims to establish a long term partnership between Roehampton University and the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil to explore the relationship of freshwater community size structure with nutrient richness, and hence water quality, within and between biogeographic regions. It will further develop an existing data set of the freshwater Peri basin in Brazil by determining community size and food web structure and compare this dataset with those available for other aquatic systems to explore underlying processes.
Contact: Anne Robertson, Julia Reiss and Enrico Rezende.
Theoretical ecology using assemblages of aquatic invertebrates. Royal Society funded study. 2010R2; RG100844
We are running different laboratory experiments that aim to demonstrate how the diversity of aquatic organisms is important for "ecosystem processes" (e.g. consumption of food resources ). Theory predicts that a very diverse assemblage drives ecosystem processes more efficiently than a species poor one. In the experiments, different combinations of (mainly microscopic) aquatic organisms are used to explore this. Funded by a Royal Society Starting Grant.
Contact: Julia Reiss.
Conservation of Ethiopia's church forests
This collaborative project begins to determine the biodiversity of these remnant afromontane forest patches. In the heavily cultivated landscape of northern Ethiopia, forests remain only in inaccessible ravines and around the Orthodox churches. In this project, funded by National Geographic and led by Professor Meg Lowman Director of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, we are assessing the contribution that insects make to the sustainability of these landscapes and creating a strong case for local conservation initiatives.
Contact: Claire Ozanne.
The costs of arboreal locomotion in tree-dwelling primates. NERC-funded study (NE/J005371/1).
Two important issues remain unresolved in great ape ecology and evolution. The first is that the selective pressures underlying the evolution of their most striking attribute, their large size, remain little understood. The second is that we know equally little about the energetic demands of great ape arboreal locomotion because of the problems of recording oxygen consumption in freely moving apes. Together these greatly hamper our understanding of ape ecology and morphology and the origins of our own ancestral heritage.
Our study employs an innovative method to address these key issues from a new angle. We obtained experimental data on the energetic cost and locomotor strategies of arboreal-like travel in parkour athletes. Their absolute energy costs will of course differ to those of other great apes. Nevertheless, they habitually navigate a 3D environment with their limbs in a wide range of positions, in suspension and compression, much like the locomotion of living non-human apes. Parkour athletes are therefore a unique resource to shed light on the mechanisms with which large-bodied apes might minimise energy expenditure during arboreal locomotion and the way in which large size might have evolved in a challenging arboreal habitat.
Contact: Lewis Halsey.
The cost of sexy traits - assessing the use of heart rate and accelerometry to quantify energetic and behavioural changes of flying pigeons after tail and wing manipulations. Royal society-funded study (RG110337).
Measuring the energy expenditure of birds on the wing is typically limited to models and proxies providing low temporal resolution. We are presently piloting the use of miniature acceleration and heart rate data loggers to measure changes in flight kinematics and energetic costs of homing pigeons during flight. We are also manipulating the wings and tails of the birds to assess their use as a proxy for ornamental birds, which we hypothesise incur increased costs of volant travel.
Contact: Lewis Halsey.
Physiological tolerance limits, geographic distribution and climate change
This research focuses on the association between physiological tolerance and distribution ranges with the ultimate goal of predicting how species may respond to ongoing global warming and identifying particularly vulnerable lineages. We employ empirical, comparative and theoretical approaches to understand the interplay between these variables in different organisms, including insects, fishes, birds and mammals.
Contact: Enrico Rezende.
What defines a successful seabird?
Populations of seabirds typically exhibit reproductive skew in that the majority of successfully reared chicks are parented by a small number of individuals. And these individuals tend to be successful year on year. What, then, makes the difference between consistently successful and unsuccessful seabird parents? To find out we are measuring morphological, physiological and behavioural traits of kittiwakes breeding on Puffin Island in Wales, to correlate with their reproductive success. This project forms part of a multi-institutional collaboration into the seabirds that populate the island.
Contact: Lewis Halsey.
Groundwater flooding: Groundwater community recovery following an extreme recharge event
The winter of 2013-4 was very wet and has resulted in extremely high groundwater levels and extensive groundwater flooding, particularly in chalk aquifers. The rapid water movement through the aquifers will likely change nutrient concentrations and we think this will have major effects on the groundwater ecosystem, including microbial biofilms, microfauna and macrofauna (dominated by crustaceans such as copepods and Niphargus). These organisms have been present in this habitat for many millions of years and mediate processes such as nitrogen recycling and thus they impact the quality of a vital source for drinking water. In this project we will track the recovery of the groundwater ecosystem through space and time by collecting samples to measure the food supply, counting and identifying the inhabitants and assessing changes in ecosystem function by measuring respiration rates and microbial activity. This is a uniquely important case study because it will provide a baseline against which future extreme events (e.g. flooding and drought) in groundwaters can be measured and will enable us to compare the responses of groundwater ecosystems to stressors with those of other aquatic ecosystems.
Contacts: Anne Robertson and Julia Reiss.