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SSF-Svalbard Science Forum

Seasonal interactions and stress physiology in an Arctic-nesting seabird

Awarded: NOK 78,999

Seasonal environments impose several constraints on wild animals resulting in highly sequential and often well-defined stages throughout the annual life cycle. The fitness of an individual relies on a successful integration of these stages across seasons, which can be particularly challenging for long-distance Arctic migrants experiencing a short breeding window during the Arctic summer. Behavioural strategies and decisions (e.g. winter site selection, foraging behaviour, breeding investment) taken by individuals during one season can have downstream consequences on subsequent life stages. Such carry-over effects can strongly impact fitness and population dynamics. However, the underlying mechanisms of carry-over effects remain unclear, which partly relies on the difficulty to track and monitor individuals across their whole annual life cycle and to account for confounding factors such as differences in individual quality. The main goal of this project will be to investigate seasonal interactions leading to carry over effect between breeding and overwintering stages in a long-distance migrating seabird population of Black-legged Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla) breeding in the High-Arctic (Svalbard, Norway). More precisely, the objectives will be to characterize the overwintering movement behaviour in order to assess 1) the consequences of the overwintering behaviour on the physiological state of pre-breeding individuals (stress hormones, contaminants, body condition); 2) the effects of the parental breeding effort on the subsequent overwintering behaviour and 3) to relieve parents from their breeding effort with a clutch removal manipulation to experimentally test for carry-over effects.

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Funding scheme:

SSF-Svalbard Science Forum