Two-year junior post-doc position in seabird biotelemetry and energetics in a windfarm context

Within the framework of the ORNIT-EOF project funded by the Agence De l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Énergie (https://www.ademe.fr/), we are looking for an inspired Post Doc, to lead cutting-edge research in movement ecology and seabird biological conservation.

Posting: Centre d’Écologie Fonctionnelle et Évolutive, Montpellier, France.

Project leaders: David Grémillet and Nicolas Courbin.

Starting date: 1st July 2019

Duration: Two years

Requirement: PhD completed within the last 24 months

Application deadline: 15 May 2019

Opportunity and training: This project will provide the Post-Doctoral fellow with the opportunity to use an extensive seabird (shearwater) tracking data base to address essential issues in movement ecology and conservation biology within a windfarm and marine traffic development context, and to publish in leading ecological journals. The research will mainly focus on data analysis and writing, but will also include fieldwork (two field sessions). It will be conducted in collaboration with other institutions (Pôle Mer Méditerranée and Biotope, and potentially Ligue de Protection des Oiseaux and France Energies Marines) being the inter-connection across the different workpackages of the ORNIT-EOF project. The research will be of direct use to a wide range of stakeholders, especially for the Agence Française pour la Biodiversité (AFB) and the managers of the Parc National des Calanques of Marseille.

Context: The major impact of offshore windfarm on seabirds is a key conservation issue. Seabirds can suffer from lethal (collision risk with turbine) and non-lethal effects (habitat loss, increase of energy expenditure).
It is essential to follow the 3D movements of seabirds to assess their potential interactions with offshore windfarm. The most part of our knowledge is based on direct at sea observations of the bird behavior with a low precision of flight height (Bradbury et al. 2014 PLoS One 9:e106366, Johnston et al. 2014 J. Appl. Ecol. 51:31-41). The low precision of direct observations currently limits our understanding of the windfarm effects on bird populations (Green et al. 2016 J. Appl. Ecol. 53:1635-1641). 2D tracking has been done for many bird species in a windfarm context, which improved our understanding of their space use related to turbine presence. However, only trackings of bird movements in 3D allow to determine the potential contacts with wind turbine. Such 3D trackings are rare, and no 3D space use have been estimated for shearwater species at this time. For other birds, e.g. gannet, the flight heights recorded with specific loggers were higher than altitude previously estimated from direct observations, showing a significant increase in collision risk with wind turbine (Cleasby et al. 2015 J. Appl. Ecol. 52:1474-1482). It becomes crucial to get in situ measures of flight height for Scopoli shearwaters, which extensively used the areas of the future offshore windfarms (Courbin et al. 2018 Ecol. Lett. 21:1043-1054, Péron et al. 2018 Div. Distr. 24:1772-1787).
Birds can also suffer from non-lethal effect in a windfarm context due to large scale avoidance effect, barrier effect and loss of areas with high functional value (resting or foraging site for example). These effects, generally ignored, could lead to changes in energetic expenditures for seabirds which try to avoid disturbed areas or balance habitat loss by searching for new and potentially less suitable areas. Few methodological tools allowing to test the impacts and delineate the critical areas for birds are actually available. The use of mechanistic habitat selection models can allow evaluating the impacts of windfarm on spatial distribution of seabirds and anticipating the future changes in their space use. This approach will be suitable for any animals moving in a human disturbed landscape, including at land, and will provide an analytical tool to assess impacts of anthropogenic projects of any nature elsewhere in the world. With the use of energetics in a context of management and conservation of biodiversity, the project will lead cutting-edge research.

Project objectives:
The overall aim of the project is to characterize the drivers of the spatial distribution of the Scopoli’s shearwater population in the western Mediterranean to anticipate lethal and non-lethal effects related to the offshore windfarm development. To this aim, the Post Doc will be follow two main objectives:
1) Characterizing the space use in 3D by Scopoli shearwaters. This objective require the deployment of 3D loggers on birds, estimating their flight height and assessing the risk of bird collision with turbine (model of collision risk).
2) The at-sea home-range of birds could also be largely modified by windfarm due to a large scale avoidance behavior of birds. The use of mechanistic habitat selection model based on energetics can allow anticipating the changes in pattern of spatial distribution of birds and the potential population consequences. Mechanistic habitat selection model require modelling a) the energetic expenses of shearwater given local conditions, and b) assessing energetic benefits based on prey fields. Prey field will be modelled based on IFREMER data.

Expected outcomes:
Three scientific publications in international research journals. The Post Doc will also be in charge of promoting his/her work in international conferences and by attending meetings with the ADEME / PMM and further stakeholders.

Required skills:
The candidate should have (1) Strong modelling, analytical and mapping skills, as the candidate will have to deal with large databases, to download and format remote-sensing biotic/abiotic information, to perform sophisticated statistical analyses and modelling of time series as well as of spatial data, and to adequately graph/map research outcomes. Background in habitat selection analyses is a plus. (2) A taste for writing, as the work will involve reporting to the ADEME, as well as publishing three papers in high-profiled journals. (3) The capacity to conduct seabird fieldwork involving GPS-recorder deployments on sensitive wildlife, and to function in the most secure manner in an isolated insular environment. (4) The candidate will be expected to be fairly independent across the project, including the writing up of papers. (5) French language skills are mandatory.

Salary and terms: ~2000 euros net, please contact us for detailed information

Location: The Post Doc fellow will be based at the Centre d’Écologie Fonctionnelle et Évolutive in Montpellier, France (http://www.cefe.cnrs.fr/).

Project partners: David Grémillet and Nicolas Courbin (coordinators, CEFE-CNRS).

Applications: Please send your CV and motivation letter to: Nicolas Courbin, CEFE-CNRS, Montpellier, France Email: [email protected]

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