The research of the MBA Behavioural Ecology group (Sims Lab) is focused on understanding the ecology of animal movement and the underlying behavioural mechanisms. We use fish and other marine taxa as models to test ideas about the behavioural tactics used by free-ranging animals, for example, in searching, foraging, habitat selection, and migration. A primary aim is to understand how environmental heterogeneity affects individual movement patterns and behaviour, and how this impacts the larger scale re-distributions of populations. In addition to providing fundamental insights to the behavioural ecology of wild animals, this information is important for assessing the effects of climate change and fishing on marine populations.
Our main approach is to track individual marine predators using advanced telemetry (biologging) techniques, such as satellite-linked archival tags and radio-linked acoustic positioning systems. We integrate this spatial movement data with environmental fields (e.g. in situ sampling, remote sensing), and with statistical analysis and computer simulations we test null models in behaviour in relation to changing environment. A particular strength of the group is in developing software for movement analysis (descriptive and hypothesis testing) of very large datasets. Long-term monitoring datasets (plankton, fish, environment) of the MBA are also used to explore links between behaviour, changes in relative abundance and environmental fluctuations.
All images are copyrighted © to David Sims, the MBA and Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch.