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Behaviour-Connect: Testing hypotheses on the behavioural drivers of connectivity in the marine environment through novel Bayesian models

Behaviour-Connect: Testing hypotheses on the behavioural drivers of connectivity in the marine environment through novel Bayesian models

Objective

Connectivity is broadly defined as the exchange of individuals between populations. Assessment of connectivity is a key goal in ecology, evolution and conservation biology. At the ecological level, connectivity is key in the persistence and resilience of populations. At the evolutionary level, connectivity influences local adaptation.
In the marine environment, ecologists have primarily focused on biophysical models of larval exchange when investigating connectivity, because of the importance of such processes on exploited or commercial species. This has diverted attention from the potentially important role of behaviour as a driver of connectivity in the marine environment. Aspects of a species' behaviour, such as migratory fidelity, social structure and feeding specialisations, can play a strong role in shaping connectivity and gene flow that has been largely been ignored in connectivity studies to date.
I propose to address this knowledge gap by simultaneously harnessing leading empirical methods, micro-chemical markers and genomics, and integrating these into a novel Bayesian framework for testing hypothesis on the behavioural drivers of connectivity. I will apply this method to a globally distributed species, the southern right whale. This large, long-lived species is highly mobile, migrating between coastal winter calving grounds and high latitude offshore feeding grounds in summer. Southern right whales show maternally transmitted preferences for migratory destinations that could influence connectivity. The combination of well-described life-history traits and lack of barriers to dispersal makes the southern right whale an ideal species in which to investigate the importance of behaviour on connectivity. While providing insights into drivers of connectivity in the southern right whale, the project will generate broader hypotheses about drivers of connectivity and provide a model for combining different data types to rigorously test such hypotheses.
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Coordinator

THE UNIVERSITY COURT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ST ANDREWS

Address

North Street 66 College Gate
Ky16 9aj St Andrews

United Kingdom

Activity type

Higher or Secondary Education Establishments

EU Contribution

€ 195 454,80

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 656774

Status

Closed project

  • Start date

    16 March 2016

  • End date

    15 March 2018

Funded under:

H2020-EU.1.3.2.

  • Overall budget:

    € 195 454,80

  • EU contribution

    € 195 454,80

Coordinated by:

THE UNIVERSITY COURT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ST ANDREWS

United Kingdom