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What are the physiological costs to seabirds adapting to Arctic climate change?

School of Environmental Sciences

About the Project

The ability of animals to adapt to their environment is crucial for populations to persist in a changing climate. Changing behaviors to match environmental change can be adaptive but plasticity can be costly, particularly in unpredictable environments, such as the Arctic. For long-lived species, such as seabirds, which are exposed to a broad range of climatic conditions, it is difficult to estimate consequences for survival in the short term, such that negative effects of climate change can be missed. Ecologically induced costs may be detectable in the short-term through oxidative stress levels, shortening of telomeres and changes to the gut microbiota but studies have not attempted to estimate the costs/benefits of phenotypic plasticity by quantifying these physiological traits, nor linked this to models of
climate change.

1. Using polar seabirds, deploy biologging devices to measure
plasticity in foraging behaviour.
2. Using physiological traits, such as telomere length, oxidative stress levels and microbiome composition, identify possible costs of plasticity
3.Link these physiological measures to foraging plasticity and climate metrics Novelty First, studies in wild vertebrates haven’t linked oxidative stress, telomeres and microbiomes, despite predictions that the costs of reproduction may affect them all. Second, despite
changes in behaviour being crucial to adapting to climate change, no study in the wild has linked the costs and benefits of plasticity in foraging to such a combination of physiological traits, nor with climate models. Timeliness The rapid development of low-cost techniques to quantify physiologically deterioration means that studies looking at multiple measures, and the relationship between them, is becoming increasingly possible. In combination with biologging technology, which allows large amounts of foraging data to be collected across
time, these data offer a timely opportunity to study the costs of plasticity. All applicants are encouraged to contact the main supervisor before submitting an application ()

Notes and how to apply are available here:
Apply at:

For any enquiries please contact SoES PGR enquiries/ACCE DTP team on

Funding Notes

NERC ACCE DTP in Ecology and Evolution, programme starts October 2021.
UKRI provide the following funding for 3.5 years:
• Stipend (2020/21 UKRI rate £15,285)
• Tuition Fees at UK fee rate (2020/21 rate £4,407)
• Research support and training grant (RTSG)
A limited number of international fee bursaries will be awarded on a competitive basis. However, if selected International and EU fee rate candidates may need to cover the remaining amount of tuition fees by securing additional funding. International fees for 2021/22 entry are not yet fixed, but as a guide fees for 2020/21 entry were £23,650 per annum.

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