Department of Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna
I am interested in the physiology of bird migration, with a particular focus on recovery during stopover. During the migratory period, several songbird species become nocturnal migrants. This change in the pattern of activity results in a conflict between the need for foraging and for rest. My project is divided in parts. My main research aims at investigating the effects of physiological status and oxidative stress on sleep behaviour, combining techniques such as respirometry, thermo-image analysis and video-analysis. Furthermore, I am studying the effect of food availability on behavioural patterns during stopover. Finally, I am investigating how the oxidative status of migratory birds changes during stopover. All these studies are conducted at our research station on the Island of Ponza (Italy), one of the most important stopover sites after the crossing of the Mediterranean Sea during spring migration.
Thesis project: How to recover after a long flight: rest patterns in migratory birds
Migratory birds fly long distances twice a year alternating nocturnal flights with stopovers to rest and recover energy. Due to changes in daily rhythms during migration, birds show drastic physiological and behavioral changes which have repercussions on sleep patterns. Physiological condition at arrival, in particular the amount of stored fat and oxidative stress levels due to prolonged exercise, influence behavioral choices during stopover. The goal of my project is to investigate how nocturnal migratory birds recover energy during the stopover phase. Wild birds are caught during spring migration at a bird ringing station on Ponza island in the central Mediterranean. I investigate the influence of physiological condition and the oxidative stress level at arrival on rest patterns. My hypothesis is that lean birds rest during the night, whereas fat birds rest more during the day. Moreover, I hypothesize that birds display a sleep postural preference depending on their physiological status.
In collaboration with:
Thomas Ruf, Institute for Wildlife Ecology, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna
Scott McWilliams, University of Rhode Islands
Niels Rattenborg, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology
Supported by startup funds of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, and the University of Vienna.
Project: Oxidative stress in bird migration.
Funded by an “Interdisciplinary Research Network” grant of the University of Vienna.