PhD research position: Foraging ecology of juvenile Australian fur seals ~

7 de septiembre de 2004

PhD research position: Foraging ecology of juvenile Australian fur seals

The following PhD research project is available for a suitable candidate for commencement in 2005 under the co-supervision of Dr John Arnould (Deakin University, Burwood Campus) and Dr Roger Kirkwood (Phillip Island Nature Park).
Foraging ecology of juvenile Australian fur seals
Australian fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus) breed at 10 sites in south-eastern Australia and produce an estimated 19,000 pups per annum. Since 1970, pup production for the species has almost doubled as part of the recovery from commercial harvesting in the 1800s. Most of this increase has occurred at sites in the north of the breeding range, with two colonies in particular now accounting for 55% of the total population for the species: Seal Rocks (25%) and Lady Julia Percy Island (30%). With the recent increases in fur seal numbers there has been rising interest in their diet, foraging areas, and prey consumption in order to better understand their role in marine ecosystem and potential interactions and conflict with commercial fisheries. While much recent work has focussed on the foraging ecology of adult females and adult males, there is little information for juvenile animals. As the early period of nutritional independence is likely to be a critical time for the survival of juvenile animals, knowledge of their foraging ecology is crucial for understanding the factors which may influence the rate of population recovery as well as gaining a better knowledge of potential fisheries interactions.
This project, therefore, aims to investigate the foraging ecology of known-age juvenile (up to 4 yr) Australian fur seals. Individuals from two colonies with contrasting foraging environments will be studied: Seal Rocks which is located >200 km from the edge of the continental shelf in central northern Bass Strait at the entrance to Western Port; and Lady Julia Percy Island which is situated on a narrow strip of continental shelf, 30 km from the shelf-edge. Components of the study will include determining:
1) At-sea movements, foraging locations and haul-out patterns
2) diving behaviour; rates of prey capture and foraging efficiency
3) prey composition and energetic value;
4) indices of diving capacity (total blood volume/ oxygen carrying
capacity) and body condition;
5) surveys of the foraging environment (sea-surface temperature,
sea-conditions, prey abundance, competitor abundance, fisheries activity)
While the logistical support for this project is already funded, the candidate will need to secure financial support for their own living
expenses (i.e. scholarship or equivalent). We require a self-motivated
student with proven field skills. Field trips of up to 14 days to remote seal colonies on islands in Bass Strait will need to be organised by the student, including arranging field assistants. A keen interest in marine research and familiarity with marine mammal science would be required. Previous experience at handling large animals would be an advantage as would a sound knowledge of statistics and proven writing skills. Interested students should contact either of the stated co-supervisors by email or telephone to discuss the project further.
Dr John Arnould Dr Roger Kirkwood
School of Biological and Chemical Sciences Phillip
Island Nature Park
Deakin University PO Box 97
221 Burwood Highway Cowes, VIC 3922
Burwood, VIC
3125 Australia
Telephone: +61 (3) 9251 7465 Telephone:
+61 (3) 5951 2844
Facsimile: +61 (3) 9251
7048 Facsimile: +61 (3) 5956 8394
E-mail: E-mail:

Dr J.P.Y. Arnould
School of Biological and Chemical Sciences
Deakin University
221 Burwood Highway
Victoria, 3125
Telephone +61 (3) 9251 7465
Facsimile +61 (3) 9251 7048
Mobile +61 0438 212 334

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