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Justus Liebig University
Behavioural Ecology and Ecophysiology Group
Institute for Animal Ecology & Systematics
My research focuses on behavioural and physiological aspects of heterothermy in endotherm animals. I am especially interested to learn how heterothermy and torpor are used to survive temporary food shortages and how this impacts the physiology during juvenile development. This question is crucial as lower body temperatures during torpor limit enzymatic reactions and can slow down development.
For my PhD project I study heterothermy and torpor as energy saving strategies in Wilson's storm-petrel nestlings (Oceanites oceanicus). At their breeding site on King George Island, South Shetland Islands, the nestlings can experience several days of food shortages when snow makes the nest-sides inaccessible to feeding parents or food abundance within closer foraging areas is low. To analyse the relation between food provisioning, development and heterothermy we will examine indicators of metabolic activity like body temperature, breathing frequency or heart rate, development parameters like growth and immune parameters, and feeding frequencies and loads. As climate change in this area is predicted to result in more frequent snow storms and less abundant prey for these birds, we are interested to learn to what extent thermoregulatory strategies may help the nestlings to cope with the changing conditions.
This project is funded by the DFG-Priority Program for Antarctic research and conducted in collaboration with the Instituto Antártico Argentino.