My current research at the Swiss Ornithological Institute - Vogelwarte focuses on the dispersal ecology of little owl Athene noctua, an endangered species in Switzerland. We are interested in understanding patterns and mechanisms of juvenile dispersal in response to habitat structure and individual characteristics using a large telemetry data set collected in Southern Germany. We use this knowledge of dispersal movement to empirically parameterize an individual-based model (IBM) to quantify the potential for little owls to recolonize suitable areas in Switzerland which are seemingly isolated from other populations.
We have now an open position for a desktop-based MSc research project, with the aim of identifying and predicting attractive sinks or ecological traps would therefore be invaluable for the applied conservation of the little owl. The student is expected to register at the University of Zürich for the thesis and join the Population Ecology and Biodemography group (popelcol) under Professor Ozgul’s academic supervision. I will act at the main co-surpervisor at the Vogelwarte. This project will build up on existing little owl demographic and space use data that have been collected in a population in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. In a first step, the student will refine habitat selection models evaluated using space use data (telemetry relocations in the study area) by linking them to demographic data of breeding success. The outcome will be used to identify and map possible mismatch between space use-defined habitat quality from my work, and fitness-defined habitat quality. In a second step, the student will use experimental supplemental feeding data to understand how this could have manipulated the fitness-landscape in the study area. Contact information and more details about the project can be found directly on the Vogelwarte webpage.