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29 November 2017


UTC 0130 – 0500
Moderator: Aurelie Labbe @amtlabbe


UTC 0130 | Holly Jones @DocHPJones
UTC 1200 | Northern Illinois University, US

Sentinels of the sea: Status, threats, and hope for global seabird conservation

Seabirds are globally one of the taxa most threatened with extinction, with nearly 1 in 3 species listed as threatened or worse on IUCN’s RedList. Some of their largest at-sea threats include fisheries interactions, climate change, and pollution. Seabirds’ on-land threats are primarily invasive species and habitat loss. This talk will briefly review seabirds’ status and threats, and then focus primarily on the conservation measures that have been most successful, species that have been rediscovered, and potential solutions for the threats seabirds face. I will first talk about the important role seabirds play in both their marine and terrestrial breeding locations, and why people should care about their plight. Then, I will talk about some of their biggest threats. Regarding hopes for the future of seabird conservation, I will cover how island invasive mammal eradications have promoted recovery of seabird populations, talk about seabird restoration techniques to bolster populations, and potential ways to combat at-sea threats to seabirds. I will highlight recent work done to help promote seabird conservation and finish with potential actions people can take if they are interested in conserving seabirds.

Holly Jones is a conservation biologist working on how to best restore ecosystems and species in a changing world. She is an Assistant Professor at Northern Illinois University. Holly conducts field research on New Zealand islands, and has expertise on impacts of invasive mammal removal on seabird island ecosystems


UTC 0200 | Aurélie M.T. Labbé @amtlabbe
UTC 1200 | Murdoch University, Australia

No effect of age on breeding in Bridled Terns

The effect of age on the breeding performance of marine birds has been demonstrated in many species but not in Bridled Terns Onychoprion anaethetus. Bridled Terns breeding in Western Australia were observed over three consecutive breeding seasons and had their breeding parameters recorded. Three different analyses found no effect of age on the breeding variables. This could be because young and inexperienced birds do not breed or that there is no effect of age on the post-laying breeding performance of Bridled Terns.

UTC 0215 | Sophie Bennett @bennett_sophie
UTC 1200 | Imperial College London, UK &
UTC 1200 | Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, UK

The importance of Atlantic Puffins in the diet of Great Black-backed Gulls

Specialist predators can drive declines in prey populations, resulting in conservation conflicts where both species are protected. Great Black-backed Gulls (GBBG) predate Atlantic Puffins, but the importance of Puffins in GBBG diets and the resulting impact on Puffin populations are poorly understood. Through analysis of pellets from the Isle of May in 2017, we show that the distribution of Puffins in GBBG diet is bimodal, with evidence of individual specialism such that 5.5% of GBBGs predated 57% of Puffins. Our results demonstrate that determining extent of specialism is critical when investigating impacts on Puffins and devising effective management strategies.

UTC 0230 | Holly Kirk @HollyKirk
UTC 1200 | ICSRG, RMIT University, OxNav,
UTC 1200 | Oxford University, UK

Adventures in automatic data collection

Ornithologists often need to collect data from species which are hard to find, live in remote places or simply dislike being disturbed. Recent technological developments lead to an increase in opportunities for potentially low impact, automated data collection. Whilst this technology could revolutionise field work, there are many practical issues to address before it replaces hard graft. Here I present results gathered from deploying RFID loggers (for automatic detection of individual birds) on a breeding colony of Manx Shearwaters. I will also briefly discuss the advantages of using this methodology, and difficulties getting this tech to work in the field.

UTC 0245 | Kate Trewin @BirdKateAU
UTC 1200 | University of Melbourne, Museums Victoria
UTC 1200 | Australia

Using automated bioacoustic methods to improve the monitoring of Australian parrots

Automated recording units (ARUs) provide excellent opportunities to collect large volumes of data across geographic space to monitor a species, and through time to infer population trends. Automating the process of identifying a species of interest within recordings can turn processing ARU data into a manageable task. Many algorithms exist to create species specific automated identification, I’ve tested three of these algorithms (Hidden Markov Models, Spectrogram Cross Correlation, and Binary Point Matching) on Australian parrots. Parrots are an order that is diverse in vocalisation type, conservation status, and population trends, lending themselves to determining which algorithm is best for different species and questions.

UTC 0300 | BREAK

UTC 0315 | Stephen M. Ferguson @RattleCall
UTC 1200 | University of Memphis, US &
UTC 1200 | Curtin University, Australia

Local female calls elicit greater aggression than nonlocal variants in Florida Scrub-Jays

Geographic variation in auditory signals is proposed as an isolating mechanism in many taxa, including birds. Historically, such research has been biased towards males. Florida Scrub-Jay Aphelocoma coerulescens females play a prominent role in territoriality using a geographically variable ‘rattle’ call. We conducted playback of local and nonlocal calls at two sites with different dominant rattle types. At each, aggression was highest toward the local variant. These results mirror patterns found in male songs and suggest an important role for female vocalizations in scrub-jays. We suggest a closer investigation of female vocalizations in other species may be revelatory.

UTC 0330 | Wesley Webb @ wesleythewebb
UTC 1200 | Massey University, New Zealand

Females who sing are more colourful

Elaborate plumages and songs are common amongst not only male birds, but females too. What is the relationship between female song and plumage colour elaboration across the songbirds? Is there an evolutionary trade-off, or do these traits evolve in concert? We test this with a phylogenetically-informed comparative analysis, using published data on female song for 1023 species of songbirds and a novel approach that enables rigorous comparison of colour elaboration. We show that in species where females sing, females (but not males) are on average more colourful, suggesting concerted evolution and reinforcing functions of female song and colour elaboration.

UTC 0345 | Michelle Roper @musedmichelle
UTC 1200 | Massey University, New Zealand

Female song rate and structure predict reproductive success in a socially monogamous bird

Birdsong is commonly regarded as a sexually selected male trait, but recent research demonstrates female song is an ancestral and phylogenetically widespread trait. Species with female song provide opportunities to study selective pressures and mechanisms specific to female songbirds. We investigated the relationship between reproductive success and female song performance in the New Zealand Bellbird Anthornis melanura. Female song rate strongly predicted the number of fledged chicks. Two measures of song complexity were also good predictors of reproductive success. These results, with others, highlight the need for a change in how we view the significance of female secondary sexual traits.

UTC 0400 | Natalie Forsdick @ NatForsdick
UTC 1200 | University of Otago, New Zealand

Wading into conservation genomics for Kakī 

Conservation management of the critically endangered New Zealand endemic Kakī Himantopus novaezelandiae has resulted in population recovery to over 100 wild adults. When at low numbers, they have interbred with non-native Poaka H. himantopus leucocephalus, which can lead to genetic admixture. Previous genetic work found no significant impact of hybridisation on the Kakī genome. With high-throughput DNA sequencing, we can now assess this with greater power at a genome-wide scale. We sequenced Kakī and Poaka and assembled draft genomes to use as references to identify variant sites between species, assess impacts of hybridisation, and generate conservation outcomes.

UTC 0415 | Ken Ishida @chichibugera

Symptoms of Bush Warblers’ at Fukushima-daiichi (F1NPP)

Bush Warblers Cettia diphone have been captured at the most severely contaminated area of Fukushima-daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident in March 2011. A bird with a kind of large abscess on the upper tail-coverts, was observed on 14 August, and 12 individuals with naked and black skin head in 2011, 2015 – 2017 summers. Two individuals were each consequently observed as their crisis or cure during three years. Sample size is small (n= 71), but these observations show the significant effects of ionizing radiation on the bird individuals in the wild.


UTC 0500 | Virat Jolli @JolliVirat
UTC 1200 | Biodiversity & Environmental Sustainability
UTC 1200 | (BEST), India

Conservation challenges and opportunities in the developing world: conservation of Himalayan birds through community participation

The Himalayas are known for its unique and rich avian species diversity. These birds provide a variety of eco-services such as seed dispersal, pollination, nutrient cycling, habitat modification, insect and pest control. Their presence ensures healthy functioning of different the ecosystems. Considering their eco-services, it is essential to protect and conserve their habitats, not only in protected areas but also outside the protected area network (e.g. in towns and cities). Therefore an attempt has been made within the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh where bird populations have been monitored during the summer season since 2015 in towns of Himachal Pradesh. Systematic bird surveys are being carried out in Kullu, Mandi, Sainj, Shimla, Dharamshala, Kangra, Palampur and Chamba towns. Monitoring of bird populations is providing valuable information regarding the habitat quality of these towns in term of supporting bird diversity. Apart from this, sites are also identified which are rich in bird diversity. The results of the monitoring are shared with local people through public lectures, environmental awareness competition programmes and social media. Local people are further engaged in monitoring common birds through short field exercises. Involving local youth in particular helps to promote their interest in nature and will help in shaping people’s perception of the value of conservation of birds. Though it is an ambitious initiative which may not yield immediate results, an informed and environmentally sensitize citizen can bring societal changes desirable for biodiversity conservation.

Virat Jolli is an environmental biologist with research interest in ecology and conservation of Himalayan birds. He is currently the President of Biodiversity and Environmental Sustainability and conduct programs on environmental awareness in parts of Himalayas. He is also engaged in teaching Environmental Science to undergraduate courses in University of Delhi, India

UTC 0530 | BREAK
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