Rob van Bemmelen studies the migration of a set of Arctic long-distance migratory seabirds. These seabirds spent the larger part of their annual cycle out at sea, where they need to regain energy reserves spent on reproduction and prepare for the next breeding season, but where they are also difficult to study.
Conservation goals for migratory birds can only be achieved if the full migration cycle between breeding and non-breeding is understood. Especially in the light of expected developments in the Arctic (climate change, increase in shipping, oil and gas extraction, increase in fishing pressure), and growing pressure on marine ecosystems worldwide, a thorough understanding of the connectivity of the Arctic with the oceans further south is paramount in conservation planning.
In this project, I aim to elucidate the migration of an elusive (and therefore poorly studied) group of bird species: long-distance migratory Arctic-breeding pelagic seabirds: the Arctic Skua (Stercorarius parasiticus), Long-tailed Skua (S. longicaudus) and Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus). These species all breed in Arctic tundra and migrate in (sub)tropical waters of the worlds Oceans, thereby covering huge distances.
Combining recently developed light-weight tracking devices (geolocators) and analysis of biomarkers in feathers, opens the possibility to map conditions experienced along individual migratory routes. Thereby, we will not only be able to map the migratory routes and wintering areas on an individual level, but will also link conditions and behaviour at sea with the preceding or subsequent breeding performance in the Arctic. Capitalising on international collaboration we combine data from a range of sites across the North Atlantic with data from our Swedish (Ammarnäs), Norwegian (Slettnes) and Russian (Tobseda) field sites.