The Falkland steamer duck (Tachyeres brachydactyla) is endemic to the Falkland Islands and is one of three flightless steamer duck species (the other two occur in southern South America). They are common around the coastline of the Falkland Islands, and pairs defend territories throughout the year. Surprisingly, little is known about the species.
While the student will be encouraged to develop additional avenues of research, this PhD project will have four main components:
- Asses how breeding territory size relates to habitat quality, and breeding success. Deploy archival GPS tags and accelerometers to understand home ranges and time budgets of steamer ducks. In addition, transect surveys of the nearshore environment would be undertaken to develop metrics for habitat quality relevant to steamer ducks. In turn this will be used to quantify how habitat influences home range size.
- Census steamer ducks to update population estimate. This will involve ground surveys and fine-scale habitat mapping using UAVs, combined with satellite derived habitat data to develop and ground truth estimates of habitat and steamer duck density for the entire Falkland Islands coastline.
- To quantify pollutant exposure, and effect on breeding success.
- Quantify the winter dispersal of juvenile steamer ducks using novel tracking technology.
The PhD project will be a collaboration between several research organizations including Deakin University (Professor John Arnould), Australia, and the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (Dr Alastair Baylis) in the Falkland Islands. We are looking for a student with extensive field experience and well developed statistical/numerical skills.
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