+49 (0)641-99 35772
Justus Liebig University
Behavioural Ecology and Ecophysiology Group
Institute for Animal Ecology & Systematics
Focus of Research
My research interests focus on ecotoxicology and trophic ecology of Antarctic marine predators. Since 2015, I have participated in research projects studying the mercury contamination of fur seals and seabirds in the Southern Ocean.
Seabirds have been widely used as sentinels in order to monitor the pollution in marine ecosystems; nevertheless, mercury and plastic exposure of petrel species are still poorly documented. In the frame of my PhD, I am carrying on a project investigating the mercury and plastic contamination in storm petrels, prions and blue petrels. Fieldwork will be carried out during early and late breeding season, at different sites in Antarctic (King George Island, Adélie Land) and Subantarctic (Diego Ramirez Islands, Kerguelen Island, Falkland Islands) zones.
The presence of common plasticizers will be determined in the waxy preen oil using a recently established GC-MS protocol. Additionally, plastic exposure of seabirds breeding in the Southern Ocean will be compared with storm petrel breeding in the North-east Pacific (San Benito Islands, Mexico), an area renowned to display a high plastic contamination. Mercury will be measured from the same birds using feathers and blood samples.
We will test for differences in the level of contamination associated with breeding and inter-breeding distribution and trophic level (determined using compound-specific stable isotope analyses). Furthermore, a comparison between samples collected during the early and late Antarctic breeding season (e.g. November versus March) will enable us to quantify carry-over effects of the exposure in the inter-breeding season.
This project is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Priority Program for Antarctic research and conducted in cooperation with the University of La Rochelle (France), the Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé (France), the Instituto Antártico Argentino (Argentina), the UC Davis Stable Isotope facility (USA), and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (Australia).