PhD Project

For my dissertation, I will identify how behavioral plasticity of closely related seabird species reduces competition and enables them to coexist as breeders at recently restored islands in New Zealand.

Quantifying the effects of early competition on fitness and niche specialization: A natural experiment in a restored ecosystem

Abstract
Species invasions consequent to anthropogenic activities have transformed the structure and function of many communities. The introduction of mammalian predators on isolated islands has been especially problematic for native species by creating top-down effects that reverberate through food webs (Baum and Worm 2009). Thus, mammal eradication from invaded islands is a globally widespread management picture1goal. But little is understood of the ecological changes that occur as recovery proceeds. Eradications are predicated on the assumption that restored islands will return to their original, pre-invasion state (Kappes and Jones 2014). However, there are important interactions between recolonizing species (especially competition) that influence how communities will reassemble. Following the eradications of mammals at New Zealand islands (Towns et al. 2016), numerous seabird species have rapidly recolonized islands, providing a natural experiment to examine community assembly. I will examine behavioral plasticity, niche specialization, and community reassembly by combining traditional field ecology with chemistry and genetics in a novel, interdisciplinary way.

References
IMG_3801Baum, J. K., and B. Worm (2009). Cascading top‐down effects of changing oceanic predator abundances. Journal of Animal Ecology 78(4):699-714.
Kappes, P. J., and H. P. Jones (2014). Integrating seabird restoration and mammal eradication programs on islands to maximize conservation gains. Biodiversity and Conservation 23(2):503-509.
Towns, D. R., S. B. Borrelle, J. Thoresen, R. T. Buxton, and A. Evans (2016). Mercury Islands and their role in understanding seabird island restoration. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 40(2):235-249.