I am a behavioural ecologist focusing on the behaviour of small mammals. My interests particularly lie in the continuously growing research area of inter-individual differences, i.e. animal personality, and the ecological influences deriving from them. Thereby I am concentrating on observing individuals of wild populations and assessing the behavioural variation under natural conditions. Currently I am working with two small omnivorous rodents which are common competitors and naturally occur sympatrically: the bank vole (Myodes glareolus) and the striped field mouse (Apodemus agrarius).
In natural populations individuals of one species consistently differ in their behavioural traits and those differences are stable over time and across situations (i.e. animal personality). This variation between individuals entails great ecological consequences through influencing for example space use, life history parameters and species interactions. Thus, inter-individual differences potentially play a vital part in facilitating the coexistence of species and shaping ecological communities. The approach of considering inter-individual differences in the context of coexistence is a step further from the well studied way of regarding individuals of a species as similar and focusing on dissimilarities between species mean traits. It therefore might facilitate new insight into understanding the mechanisms that drive species coexistence and how local biodiversity is shaped.
The project aims at investigating the inter-individual differences in movement-related behaviours of two small mammals, how they influence the spatial behaviour of individuals and the resulting impact on individual and ecological fitness. Therefore in a first step the natural variation in behavioural types in both coexisting species will be quantified using already established personality tests, as well as their spatial distribution within and space use of a heterogeneous habitat assessed using capture-mark-recapture and automatic radio-tracking. Furthermore fitness proxies will be measured. In a second step, an experimental approach will be taken in which the variation in behavioural types will be manipulated to assess its influence on the coexistence of the study species.