The latest news on my research projects:

Friday 15 February 2019 – New paper published:

Climate change and fisheries are considered to be the two greatest threats to marine biodiversity. But very few studies have been able to examine how different sexes of the same species will be affected as our oceans change. A new study, led by Dimas Gianuca, a former PhD student in the Votier group, has done just that. The paper, accepted for publication in the Journal of Animal Ecology, found that giant petrels will benefit from an increased number of warm weather anomalies, while changes to wind patterns across the Antarctic will also improve their ability to forage at sea. However, males would benefit more from greater access to carrion on land, while females will benefit from from stronger winds making foraging at sea more energetically efficient. The work was carried out in collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and made use of their long-term dataset on giant petrel demography.

Friday 26 October 2018 – New MPAs in South Africa:

The South African government has today declared 20 new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). This will increase the amount of ocean protected in South Africa's Exclusive Economic Zone from 0.5 to 5%. Work to declare these MPAs dates back to 2014, when the South African government endorsed a plan to achieve a viable network of MPAs under Operation Phakisa.

Amongst the 20 sites getting protection is the Robben Island MPA, which was designated in part "to contribute to the conservation and protection of African penguin, bank and Cape cormorants and other threatened seabird and shorebird species". This is great news and huge congratulations are due to all those involved.

The official press release is here and you can learn more in this beautiful YouTube video.

Monday 24 September 2018 – New PhD student:

A warm welcome to Jenny Grigg, who has been awarded a fully-funded PhD Studentship in the Votier Lab. The project will examine the causes and consequences of dispersal and recruitment, and their importance for penguin conservation and translocation. The studentship is co-supervised by myself, Steve Votier, Dave Hodgson (both University of Exeter) and Alison Cotton (Bristol Zoological Society). Jenny carried out her MSc fieldwork on Robben Island, working with the penguins there and has lead several teams on our Earthwatch project over the past few years. So, it is really welcome back! Good luck Jenny, and great to have you onboard.

Wednesday 17 January 2018 – New paper published:

Forage fish, like sardine and anchovy, are crucial to ocean food webs and are caught by some of the world’s largest fisheries. Understanding whether these fisheries affect predator populations by depleting their prey requires experimental fishing closures. However, these are extremely rare. Using an eight-year dataset, we measured breeding performance in endangered African penguins before and after, with and without fishing closures around four colonies.

In a new paper published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B we demonstrate how these fishing closures improved chick survival and body condition enough to increase the penguins’ expected population growth. This represents key evidence that marine protected areas can help conserve threatened marine predators by protecting their prey. The paper is the output from a long-running collaboration with numerous partners, notably the South African government Department of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, BirdLife South Africa, the University of Cape Town, the University of Bristol, Nelson Mandela University, the University of Glasgow and the RSPB. Thanks to all the co-authors for all their hard work over the 8-year study.

Tuesday 17 October 2017 – Congratulations Dr Gaglio:

We have just had the news that the minor corrections on Davide Gaglio's PhD thesis have been accepted by the Exams Office at the University of Cape Town. So, it's official. Congrats Dr Gaglio! Davide's thesis focused on the ecology of greater crested terns in southern Africa. He used an array of techniques, including digital photography to study their diet, foraging ecology and behaviour. He has published 3 papers using the data he collected and has 4 more in review so keep an eye out for those coming soon! Davide is heading to Australia for the next step in his adventures. Safe travels and well done Davide!

Friday 13 October 2017 – New paper published:

Incidental bycatch in fisheries is considered one of the major threats to seabirds worldwide. However, there is a lot we don't know about how this threat manifests itself across the different geographic areas inhabited by the world's 18 penguin species. A new paper just accepted for publication in Endangered Species Research this week offers an up to date perspective and some advice and guidance for monitoring going forward. The paper is the output from a pair of workshops organised by the RSPB and others at the last two international penguin congresses.

Thanks to Rory Crawford, Ursulla Ellenberg and the team of local co-ordinators (Christina Hagen, for southern Africa) for all their hard work to get this accepted and all the other co-authors for their input.

Tuesday 11 July 2017 – Reasons to celebrate in the Votier Lab:

Two great pieces of news in the Votier Lab here at the ESI today! First, congratulations to Steve Votier, who has very deservedly been promoted to Associate Professor! And congratulations to Dimas Gianuca who has just handed-in his PhD thesis! Dimas' PhD thesis is on the demography of northern and southern giant petrels on South Georgia. He is supervised by (now) Professor Steve Votier and Professor Stuart Townley here at Exeter and by Dr Richard Phillips at the British Antarctic Survey. Well done to both Steve and Dimas! Looking forward to celebrating when you get back from fieldwork (Steve) and sleeping off the last weeks of work (Dimas).

Thursday 29 June 2017 – New paper published:

Quantifying seabird-fisheries competition remains a challenge, but a new paper published in Fisheries Research this week offers some advice and guidance for best practises going forward. The paper is the output from a pair of workshops organised by the Farallon Institute (USA) and the Pew Charitable Trusts (USA). I gave one of the plenary presentations at the Cape Town workshop in October 2015 and am a co-author on the paper. Huge thanks to Bill Sydeman and Sarah Ann Thompson for their hard work and all the other co-authors for their input.

Monday 26 June 2017 –June on Robben Island:

I'm back from one month of fieldwork on Robben Island, keeping the long-term monitoring programme going. I was assisted in the field by three volunteers on our Earthwatch project, Lucy Sherley and Camille Le Guen, a PhD student from the University of St Andrews working on predator-prey dynamics in South Africa and South Georgia. We successfully monitored 111 penguin nests for breeding success and tracked the foraging trips of 28 penguins with GPS devices, depth recorders and accelerometers. These data will ultimately help our ongoing efforts, along with many partners in South Africa, to advise the South African government on Marine Spatial Planning and protected areas for seabirds in the Benguela Ecosystem. Thanks Nina, Amy, Carole, Camille and Lucy for an enjoyable trip!

You can find out more about this work here and more about our Earthwatch project here.