Long-term temporal dynamics of an over-sea migrant bird assemblage.
I am interested in the effects of environmental change on migrant species phenology/the timing of species life history events. Many studies have now reported advances in the timing of key life history events commonly associated with spring onset in temperate regions (e.g. Leaf outing, insect emergence and breeding onset). This could carry fitness implications for migrant birds who rely on temperate sites for breeding, through changes in trophic synchrony with food availability and potential competitors.
For my PhD project I will be using daily migrant sighting data, spanning > 60 years, to investigate how the migratory schedules and phenology of multiple bird species have changed through time. This dataset, collected by Fair Isle Bird Observatory using a standardised methodology since 1955, provides a rare opportunity to quantify inter-species differences in the presence / magnitude of phenological responses in both spring and autumn. I will use the findings from this to investigate whether specific factors/attributes (e.g. phylogeny, migration distance, habitat requirements, feeding ecology etc.) are effective in explaining observed variance in species phenological responses. Finally, I aim to scale this up to quantify how the structure and composition of the migratory community assemblage passing through Fair Isle has changed throughout this time period. From this, I will assess whether inter-species differences in response are altering temporal niche separation between species using Fair Isle and thereby changing species interactions.
This project is funded by the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) through the Scottish Universities Partnership for Research (SUPER) Doctoral Training Program in CASE partnership with Fair Isle Bird Observatory