Effects of climate change on Australian bird species.
Understanding the consequences of environmental change for the viability of populations is critical in an era of rapid climate change. Despite evidence that species are responding to the thermal and energetic demands imposed by a changing climate, the underlying mechanisms driving species’ responses are virtually unknown. Identifying outcomes of change, rather than the underlying mechanisms, does not tell us why populations are changing or what the implications of those changes will be. We offer a range of field- or museum-based projects aimed at improving our mechanistic understanding of the impact of climate change on Australian birds, focusing on the links between species' traits, individual fitness and population dynamics, factors that determine the abundance and distribution of species.
Supervised by Janet Gardner and Loeske Kruuk. Potential PhD or Honours student projects (see details below of a particular honours project).
Please contact us if you would like to discuss a project.
*** ANU Honours project: Integrating different responses to climate change in Australian birds
Species are responding to climate change in multiple ways: by shifting their distributions, changing the timing of major life events such as breeding and migration and adjusting their morphology (body size and shape). However, despite the general perception that responses are ‘universal’ across taxa, recent reviews highlight considerable variation among species, and within populations of the same species. For example, although poleward shifts to cooler climates are predicted, 40% of species showing changes at range boundaries are in the direction opposite to that predicted.Similarly, although pervasive reductions in body size are predicted, 44% of studies reporting size shifts report increases in body size or no change at all.
This project will investigate factors that may contribute to this variability in response. One explanation is that the different types of response are in fact complementary: while some species track their climate niche by changing their phenology, others shift their geographical range, or adjust their body size to meet the thermal and energetic requirements imposed by a changing climate. The work will involve an extensive literature search and work with museum specimens.