Tracked around the clock
Lesser black-backed gulls, a long-lived migratory seabird, were commonly assumed to be generalists.
However, this poorly characterizes the foraging habits of individual gulls - individuals tend to specialize
on one foraging strategy. Such inter-individual variation in the use of an ecological niche is increasingly
recognized as an ecologically relevant phenomenon. Its adaptive significance likely depends on: (a) the
predictability of a food resource and the heterogeneous environmental conditions throughout the
annual cycle, (b) how foraging specialization co-varies with other behavioural (“personality”),
physiological or life history traits, and (c) whether consistency in foraging restrains behavioral
plasticity, and thus the ability to adapt to environmental changes.
The implementation of new state-of-the-art GPS tracking devices developed by UvA-bits (www.uvabits.nl)
and the installation of a high tech sensor network (LifeWatch Infrastructure, coordinated by
the Research Institute for Nature and Forest, INBO) recently allowed to collect extremely detailed and
relevant information about the movements and foraging behavior of individual birds throughout the
annual cycle. Since 2014 >100 individual lesser black-backed gulls have been fitted with such GPS tags.
This extensive data set provides unique opportunities to study the variation of foraging specialization
and its functional consequences in a life history context. The postdoc will focus on the analysis of this
extensive dataset containing observations of individually marked (color-ringed) birds and the
recordings obtained from the GPS tracking system. In addition, the postdoc will closely collaborate
with 3 PhD-students appointed at the University of Antwerp, respectively the University of Gent, who
concentrate on investigating under field conditions how parental decisions about the level of
investment into their current offspring vary with the ability of an individual to respond to its biotic and
We are seeking a highly motivated, enthusiastic and creative person with a PhD in biology. You will
have experience with analyzing GPS-tracking data and abilities in the application of GIS. You will be
familiar with statistical packages such as R and with applying modern movement ecology approaches.
You have competency and enthusiasm for the processing of large data sets. Demonstrated publication
record and fluency in English are required. You must have good communication skills and be able to
work in a team. Experience with fieldwork would be helpful in case you would like to carry out own
The post is a full-time two-year post-doctoral position with possible extension depending on
performance and project funding, fixed term from 1 April 2017 to 1 April 2019.
To apply, please send in a single pdf file: (a) a statement of your research interests, motivation and
suitability for this position, and (b) your CV including a list of publications and (c) the contact details of
two references. Applications are to be sent to Wendt.Mueller@uantwerpen.be. Consideration of
applications will commence on the 1st of March 2017, and continue until the position is filled.