Top predators

Animal behaviour - telemetry and tracking

We use state-of-art satellite, GPS, dive and archival tags to reconstruct the behaviour of local and far-ranging marine predators at sea. Understanding the behaviour and foraging strategies of marine predators, and their relationship with oceanic and atmospheric parameters is critical in order to predict likely impacts of climate change and human activities. We have developed a diverse suite of analytical and interpretative tools data to determine details of marine mammal and seabird movement and behaviour, e.g. discernment of diving behaviour, flight, feeding, and resting modes.

Trophic interactions - role in the foodweb

In the marine environment top predators are major consumers of high biomass species, including zooplankton, fish and squid. Characterising trophic linkages between predators helps us to understand structure and function of the marine ecosystem. For far-ranging and migratory species this can be challenging. Subsequently, indirect methods (stomach content and faecal analyses, and more newly developed techniques such as genetic, fatty acid and stable isotope analysis) are used to help reconstruct their diet and food web relationships and couple them with habitat use information gained through telemetry.

Population dynamics - changes over time

The size and composition of animal populations are influenced by the distribution and abundance of resources (prey and habitat), predators and disease. Quantifying these relationships requires data on population abundance as well as the "vital rates", the birth rates and mortality rates which determine an populations growth or decline. We use innovative census techniques (such as high resolution satellite images) and advanced demographic models to understand the factors that drive populations of birds and mammals in the Southern Ocean.

Authorised by the Executive Director, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
October 30, 2015