Academic Year 2022-2023
Institution Queen's University, Belfast


School: School of Biological Sciences

Project: The effect of changing soundscapes on trophic interactions

Supervisors: Dr Hansjoerg Kunc, Professor Xavier Lambin & Dr Neil Reid

Undergraduate Education: BSc Zoology, University of Leeds

Postgraduate Education: MRes. Wildlife Conservation, University of Southampton

Research: Predators shape ecosystems by changing the behaviour of their prey. Prey animals respond both to direct predation and to the indirect ‘landscape of fear’ created by the cues of predator presence. Understanding how prey species change their behaviour in response to these cues contributes to our ability to predict how ecosystems respond to conservation management interventions. I am looking at how animals respond to the cue of noise. Humans produce noise (anthropogenic noise) and current evidence suggests that animals respond more fearfully to us than to their natural predators; they perceive humans as a ‘super predator’. I will be exploring what the current research suggests about 1) how mammals respond to anthropogenic noise and 2) how the landscape of fear affects ecosystem interactions, by conducting two meta-analyses. I will then be conducting field experiments to understand how anthropogenic noise affects the trophic interactions of UK mammals (e.g. red squirrels, grey squirrels, pine martens, red foxes). Red squirrels and pine martens have undergone serious declines across the UK and our desire to conserve both species presents challenges given their predator-prey interactions. My results will help inform conservationists working to recover their populations by providing further insight into how fear shapes their behaviour. Throughout my project I will also work under Katy Bell’s supervision with my CASE partner, Ulster Wildlife, to contribute to their work building long term mammal datasets for Northern Ireland.