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School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

Frederick Wilkinson

PhD Student



Project Title: 

Identifying factors affecting the distributions of large marine vertebrates in coastal areas to predict current and future distributions


Marine megafauna tends to aggregate in complex communities, yet the environmental determinants of this behaviour remain unknown. The recent emergence of aerial drones provides novel opportunities to explore how such communities assemble and identify environmental factors that regulate their distributions. Here, I will explore this question at the biodiversity hotspot of Cabo Verde (Atlantic Ocean). I will identify the environmental factors associated with the distributions of three key groups (elasmobranchs, sea turtles, cetaceans) combining high-frequency aerial drone surveys and remote sensing data. I will test whether identified factors could be used to predict community assemblages in unsurveyed areas from mathematical models (individual based models, niche distribution modelling), which I will then test empirically with aerial drone surveys.

I will then use models to construct management scenarios in silico, including dynamic management, based on my previous results, and how distributions might shift under climate change. Through combining empirical and theoretical approaches, my study is expected to provide new insights on the community dynamics of large marine vertebrates. It may guide towards sustainably managing coastal areas supporting high biodiversity under a changing climate.



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