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Mapping the food consumption of seabirds in space and time

Project Description

Background: Seabirds are estimated to consume an amount of fish and seafood from the global oceans equivalent to that harvested by humans. This creates considerable scope for conflict between humans and seabirds, particularly in coastal seas. Further, recent research suggests that seabird population collapses are likely unless fisheries leave ‘one third for the birds’ of fish stocks.
However, we know almost nothing about the amount of food required by the vast majority of seabird populations, how this changes in space and time and the interaction of these demands between populations.
Objectives: This project will:
1. Compile existing data to generate a predictive model of growth rates and food consumption for seabird chicks of any species.
2. For a regional case-study system (UK), combine a novel understanding of the energy requirements of seabirds during the breeding season with emerging understanding of multi-species distributions to describe food consumption at fine temporal and spatial scale.
3. Develop our understanding of non-breeding season energy expenditure based on multiple existing datasets on time-budgets and energetic costs with the aim of generating a predictive model.
4. At the global scale, make spatially and temporally explicit estimates of prey consumption by the world’s seabirds.
Novelty & Timeliness: Our understanding of marine predator distributions is increasing, with major positive implications for species and ecosystem conservation. A recent project by our group established an approach by which we can estimate food consumption for populations of breeding seabirds ( The next step is to understand the function of seabirds in these systems and evaluate their subsequent competition with fisheries and other human activities. Understanding when and where seabirds consume their food is an essential component of this.

The Candidate: This is an analytical project suiting a student with interests in marine conservation, spatial ecology and modelling. Our approach will be flexible with scope for the work to follow the student’s interests and to add additional supervisors if appropriate. If successful, the student will join the Seabird Ecology Group at the University of Liverpool (SEGUL), made up of 8 PhD students and 3 postdocs and would be based in the research group of the lead supervisor (JAG).
Applications should describe how and why your interests and experience will match the likely demands of this particular PhD. Interested candidates are strongly encouraged to contact the lead supervisor () prior to application.

Applications should be made online at the following link. Please apply for: Environmental Sciences (lab based) PhD

Enquiries can be directed to:

Jayne Avies (PGR Administrator) at

Interviews in or after the week commencing : 11th February 2019. Shortlisted applicants will be interviewed for only one project from the ACCE partnership.

Funding Notes

Competitive funding of tuition fee, research costs and stipend (£14,777
tax-free, 2018-19) from the NERC Doctoral Training Partnership “Adapting to the Challenges of a Changing Environment” (ACCE, View Website ). ACCE – a collaboration between the Universities of Sheffield, Liverpool, and York – is the only dedicated ecology/evolution/conservation Doctoral Training Partnership in the UK.


Dunn, R., White, C.R. & Green, J.A. (2018) A model to estimate seabird field metabolic rates Biology Letters 14: 20180190
Wakefield E., Owen, E., Baier J., Daunt, F., Dodd, S. Green, J.A., Guilford, T. Mavor, R., Miller, P., Newell, M., Newton, S., Robertson, G., Shoji, A., Soanes, L., Votier, S., Wanless, S. & Bolton M. (2017) Breeding density, fine-scale tracking and large-scale modelling reveal the regional distribution of four seabird species. Ecological Applications 27, 2074-2091
Warwick-Evans, V., Atkinson, P.W. Walkington I. & Green, J.A. (2018) Predicting the impacts of windfarms on seabirds: an Individual Based Model. Journal of Applied Ecology 55, 503-515
Soanes, L.M., Bright, J.A., Carter, D., Dias, M., Fleming, T., Gumbs, K., Hughes, G., Mukhida, F. & Green, J.A. (2016) Important foraging areas of seabirds from Anguilla, Caribbean: Implications for marine spatial planning. Marine Policy 70, 85-92

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