Movement ecology and conservation – the case of African vultures
Speaker: Claudia Faustino (CREEM)
In this seminar I will present the work I’ve done in my PhD. I will share the main findings and present the methodology used, while also preparing for my viva. The motivation for my work comes from the fact that despite the ongoing international efforts to halt biodiversity loss, many species including vultures, still face risk of extinction. Identifying movement patterns can help researchers understand the flexibility with which animals respond to variable environmental conditions and design effective conservation management plans. Even though the study of animal movement has a long history, these have been revolutionised by the more recent advances in tracking technology. With these advances comes an increasing volume of data being generated, also posing greater challenges for data analysis.
Fifteen white-backed and two hooded vultures have been equipped with satellite tags as part of an ongoing monitoring project in Namibia. These transmitted over 230 thousand GPS locations on 6,604 bird-days during 240 bird-months, over a study area of 2.3 million sq.km (almost 10 times larger than the area of the UK, for reference). Animal movement was inspected at varying temporal scales: daily, monthly and the entirety of the transmission length. The methods implemented addressed the spatial-temporal correlation characteristic of movement data, allowed varying levels of flexibility (linear, 1D and 2D smooth function) of the explanatory variables, and produced estimates with associated uncertainty (95% confidence intervals and coefficient of variation). This generated an unprecedented set of detailed statistically robust results on the movement ecology of the study species.