Research Projects & Positions


From 1st of October 2017 – 31st October 2018 (terminated early)

Hooked up or flying free? Foraging behaviour of Icelandic northern fulmars in relation to fisheries activities and habitat characteristics: individual specialisation and personality

FWO-Post-doctoral Fellowship at the University of Antwerp, Belgium, with Prof. Marcel Eens

Ecosystems around the globe are heavily affected by anthropogenic influences, threatening especially long-lived organisms like seabirds. Besides climate-change-induced shifts in the marine food web, many seabirds get killed as bycatch in fisheries, but fishery discards are also valuable food. Previous research has shown that even in dietary generalists individual birds can be specialised on food sources. This can be linked to personality (e.g. whether birds are bold or shy), age or sex, potentially making fishing vessels more attractive for some individuals than others.

The aim of this research project is to explore the foraging behaviour of northern fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) in the North and South of Iceland (where marine ecosystems differ due to the influx of  cold/Arctic and warm/Atlantic water masses, respectively), assess differences among individuals in foraging behaviour (using GPS tracking) and diet, and investigate interactions with fishing vessels. We will investigate whether and how foraging behaviour and diet are related to the birds’ personality (bold versus shy birds), and how this affects offspring offspring growth, physiology and survival.


October 2014 to September 2017

Foraging behaviour and ecology of Antarctic fulmarine petrels in relation to wind and habitat characteristics

FWO-Post-doctoral Fellowship at the University of Antwerp, Belgium, with Prof. Marcel Eens and in collaboration with Dr. Louise Emmerson, Australian Antarctic Division

Procellariiform seabirds (petrels, albatrosses and shearwaters) are among the most-threatened groups of birds worldwide, and they rely heavily on winds for their gust-soaring flight. The aim of this project is to study the space use strategies, foraging behaviour and diet of an assembly of four petrels during the breeding season in two regions within Eastern Antarctica. A major focus is on the identification of habitat requirements within the two distinct regions and the effects of wind speed and wind direction on the space use decisions and flight costs of the different species. My results will improve the management of the ecosystem-based fisheries within the boundaries of the Antarctic Treaty, and I will develop predictions under climate change scenarios for future foraging habitat use of the four focal species.


October 2013 – September 2014

Impact of ocean temperatures on the breeding ecology and phenology of rockhopper penguins

FWO-Post-doctoral Fellowship at the University of Antwerp, Belgium with Dr. Maud Poisbleau and Prof. Marcel Eens

Global climate change is not only causing increasing temperatures of the atmosphere an ocean and therefore rising sea levels, but also leads to – among many more consequences – increased environmental variability (i.e. more weather extremes). In the framework of this project, I investigated how environmental variability across several years affected the body mass of the same individual female rockhopper penguins and their timing of egg laying as well as their reproductive investment.

great tits

March 2013 – July 2013

Field assistant in the project Hormonal mediation of attractiveness and behaviour in great tits (Parus major)

Helping the PhD Student Akiko Matsuda in the Evolutionary Physiology Group headed by Dr. Michaela Hau at the at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology.


November 2012 – March 2013

Scientific Associate at the University of Freiburg

Department of Wildlife Ecology and Management, collaborating with Dr. Gernot Segelbacher

In this short-term project I analysed stable isotope analyses of feather and plant samples to investigate the food web interactions of rock ptarmigans and black grouse in the Swiss Alps.


March 2009 – January 2013

Adaptations to a variable environment—feeding ecology, survival and physiology of southern rockhopper penguins

PhD thesis at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology / University of Konstanz, Germany

Supervision: Prof. Petra Quillfeldt and Prof. Martin Wikelski
Collaborations: Dr. Maud Poisbleau and Dr. Katrin Ludynia

For my PhD, I studied how environmental variability affects the foraging behaviour and foraging success of southern rockhopper penguins in the short-term and survival and population trends in the long-term. My fieldwork methods included the deployment of GPS-loggers, marking of penguins with passive integrated transponders (PITs), setup and maintenance of an automatic gateway system, blood-sampling for hormone and stable isotope analyses and leucocyte counts as well as morphometric measurements of adults and chicks.

The research for my PhD helped to identify critical foraging areas both during the wintering period and the breeding season. In addition, I could show for the first time that annual adult survival rates in this species are quadratically related to sea surface temperatures, and that wind direction and speed are important determinants of short-term foraging success.


May 2008 – January 2009

Investigations on immunology of seabirds from Christmas Island, Indian Ocean

Diplom Thesis at the University of Kiel, Germany

Supervision: Dr. Janos C. Hennicke and Prof. Michael Spindler

For my Diplom thesis (German equivalent to a Master thesis), I spent 4 weeks on tropical Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean to collect behavioural data and blood samples from red-tailed tropicbirds, brown boobies, red-footed boobies and the endemic Christmas Island frigatebirds. Lab analyses were focussed on leucocyte profiles and the heterophil / lymphocyte ratio, which is an indicator of stress.