Elodie Claire Marie Camprasse
My passion for marine biology started with my first underwater experience off the South-West of France on a nice summer day. I was 13 years-old at the time and guided by my father who loved the aquatic element, I was gifted an Open Water course. From the moment I started breathing underwater surrounded by fascinated creatures I had so far only seen in books and TV documentaries, I promised myself that I was going to become a marine biologist. At that point, I cared mostly about what I could see where I dived: seaweeds, nudibranchs, fishes and corals were among my favourites. I then learned about the opportunity to work as a field assistant in the French Southern and Antarctic Lands, living in Brest, Brittany, where the French Polar Institute is located. I immediately sought more information and realised that my best bet to go was if I knew about birds and marine mammals and had experience catching, handling, ringing or tagging them. A new journey of volunteering and short positions started for me to have enough experience to realise my dream of going to the most remote places on Earth to study the habits of the creatures that call them home. After a few years of perseverance and great experiences, I finished my Bachelor in Marine Biology and my masters in Marine Environment and Resources and I finally got to go and work on Kerguelen Island as a field assistant! More specifically, I was helping with two scientific programs focusing on studying the ecology and demography of seabirds and marine mammals, which was a fantastic opportunity to work in close proximity with fascinating creatures in a harsh but amazing environment. I got to deploy different kinds of loggers on various species of penguins, albatrosses, elephant and fur seals, ring petrels, storm-petrels and skuas, and carry out counts at seabird and marine mammal colonies, among other tasks. This fortunately facilitated me getting a PhD position at Deakin University, in Melbourne, Australia. As part of it, I am investigating individual specialisations, which happen when individuals use a small subset of the population’s resource base. I am focusing on foraging specialisations displayed by seabird species of different ecologies. Individual specialisations is a topic that attracted more and more research in the past 20 years as we discovered that animal populations, even when considered generalists, are more so a series of individual specialists. Furthermore, they have been shown to be widespread among animal taxa and expressed in a wide range of contexts. The consequences and drivers of individual specialisations are, however, not well understood.
Supervised by Professor John Arnould at Deakin University and in collaboration with Dr Charly Bost and Yves Cherel from the Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé, France, I am looking at providing answers in regard to the factors influencing individual specialisations and consistency in foraging behaviour and their ramifications. I am using three model species, considered generalists (little and Gentoo penguins) or specialists (Kerguelen shags), with different trends in habitats, dive behaviour and spatial use. Thanks to the deployment of data loggers, including GPS, Time-Depth Recorders and accelerometers, I am looking at patterns of consistency in behaviour over different time scales (from several consecutive trips within a breeding phase, between breeding phases of the same reproductive season and between breeding seasons). Regurgitate analyses and moreso stable isotope analyses are allowing me to look for dietary specialisations. I am also measuring and weighing instrumented individuals and their chicks in order to investigate the drivers and consequences of their consistency and specialisations.
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