In a periodically changing environment it is important for animals to time the major events of their life (breeding and moult) in order to maximise their lifetime fitness i.e. they should optimise their annual routines. Our understanding of what ecological , evolutionary or life history factors are responsible for the evolution and maintenance of the considerable variability in annual schedules between populations and species is still unsatisfactory.
The understanding of these factors is, however, important. First, it may provide the missing link between individual behaviour and population-level processes resulting in models that are more useful for nature conservation. Second, by clarifying the interactions between state variables (e.g. feather quality, health status) and annual routines it may serve as the basis to implement new methods in which measuring state variables can be a convenient way to estimate parameters of population processes. The proposed research focuses on how state variables influence future behaviour of birds and, vice versa, how variation in annual routines changes state variables. To do so, we first develop a new class of models based on the recent theoretical approach to optimal annual routines and we then test the predictions of these models using field observations and experiments to investigate the interactions between feather quality, health status, timing of breeding and moult.
As the result we will understand how various factors influence the timing of breeding and moult and how individual behaviour might affect population processes. The project contributes to the objectives of the Specific Programme as follows. I can continue my work in my homeland allowing the transfer of the knowledge I gained during my Marie Curie Fellowship. It promotes the mobility of researchers from several parts of the EU and helps to form cooperation between the regional (Hungarian, Romanian and Slovakian) Universities.
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