My PhD Project

‘Predicting the Home-Range Emergence of Long Tailed Tits’

I thought it was about time I wrote a brief introduction to my PhD project, and why its so interesting!

In general I am really interested in what behaviours cause animals to live the way they do. In particular I care about how animals use their available landscape. Why? Well if its taken away by humans, we need to predict the consequences. Will the species survive? Will the ecosystem survive?

Some animals live in home ranges, which means they restrict their movement to one area, even though there is much more space available.  If an animal is also territorial, we can call this their territory.

The first HUGE question is 

What underlying behaviours are causing some animals to live in home ranges?

Could the animal be always returning to a den? Avoiding dangerous places? Looking for a mate?

I’m studying the home ranges of long tailed tits. These birds aren’t territorial and outside of the breeding season they don’t have a constant roost. These things are important as

1. Territorial animals avoid each other, giving rise to territory formation which shows exclusive home ranges.

2. If an animal has a permanent nest or den they don’t usually range too far away from it, giving a clear home range.

Both of these have a wealth of mathematical models behind them and I’m interested in studying something more unknown,

Now moving on to my questions.

Why are flocks of Long Tailed Tits restricting their movement to the finite areas we can see below? Why do they appear to use some of their space almost exclusively, although they are not territorial? What underlying behaviours are causing this?

Home ranges of long tailed tits in the Rivelin Valley Sheffield. Data from 2012, Napper et al (2016).

 

I’m using mechanistic models to model the home ranges seen above.  In particular I am interested in chemotaxis models and their applications.

More to follow in the near future! In the meantime see my poster

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