My field of research is movement ecology applied especially in dynamic agricultural landscapes. I am also interested in animals’ potential to function as mobile linkers between separated habitat types. Furthermore I am engaged in the newly emerging field of behavioural categorization by acceleration sensors. To study the behaviour and movement of organisms I use GPS collars with VHF/UHF transmitters and integrated acceleration sensors. Within my PhD project I focus on European hares (Lepus europaeus) as a model species, but I am also involved in projects with red foxes and raccoon dogs.
There is a global tendency towards ever larger areas being used to grow crops and farm animals. Wildlife necessarily will come into contact with cultivated areas and has to adapt to those often dominant landscape types. Agricultural landscapes are spatially and temporarily highly dynamic regions. They change between years as a result of the cropping system and within years due to the normal vegetation period and sudden resource changes (harvest, ploughing). A key aspect in assessing the importance of mobile linkers for biodiversity dynamics is to understand their movement behaviour in relation to landscape structure mediating connectivity. How is this behaviour affected by landscape structure and how facilitates movement the connectivity between habitat patches? From a theoretical perspective, the extent and frequency of animal movements are determined by the interaction between the temporal pattern in resource availability (e.g. synchronous plantation and growth of crops) and the spatial autocorrelation pattern in changes in resource availability (e.g. synchronous harvesting of crops). These dynamics strongly affect external and internal factors of mobile links and, thus, their movement paths that may be critical for biodiversity.
With this project we aim at shedding light on the following research questions: What are the impacts of transient matrix areas, i.e. temporary structures that facilitate/prevent movements between habitat patches, on connectivity and potential links affecting biodiversity patterns? What are the effects of sudden changes in resources and landscape structure (e.g. harvesting or ploughing) on movement behaviour and movement paths of individual mobile linkers? How do land use induced changes in movements on a small scale affect biodiversity patterns at larger scales?
We will apply GPS-telemetry with internal acceleration sensors to understand effects of land use induced changes in landscape structure and resources on movement paths and behaviour of a potential mobile linker i.e. the European hare. Landscape dynamics i.e. landscape structure and resource availability will be quantified by monitoring crop specific growth and timing of management (e.g. ploughing, harvesting). Advanced statistical analyses, e.g. random forest methods and neural networks will be used to identify behaviour-specific (e.g. resting/hiding, foraging, fleeing) acceleration pattern of sensors in the GPS tags. This will allow for predicting animal behaviour at specific spatial positions and more importantly the changes in behaviour after sudden changes in landscape structure and resource availability. Within the home ranges of the GPS-tagged individuals, hares faeces will be collected and germination experiments performed to identify moved plant species.