NSFGEO-NERC: Integrating Individual Personality Differences in the Evolutionary Ecology of a Seabird in the Rapidly Changing Polar Environment
Overview: To date, studies that have addressed the impacts of global changes have mainly focused on linking climate variability and/or human disturbances to individual life history traits, population dynamics or distribution. However, individual behavior and plasticity mediate these responses. The goal of this project is to understand mechanisms linking environmental changes (climate & fisheries)- behavioral personality type – plasticity in foraging behaviors- life history traits – population dynamics for a seabird breeding in the southern ocean: the wandering albatross. This project will also forecast the population structure and growth rate using the most detailed mechanistic model to date for any wild species incorporating behaviors in an eco-evolutionary context. Specifically, the investigators will (1) characterize the life history strategies along the shy-bold continuum of personalities and across environmental conditions; (2) understand the link between phenotypic plasticity in foraging effort and personality; (3) characterize the heritability of personality and foraging behaviors; (4) develop a stochastic eco-evolutionary model to understand and forecast the distribution of bold and shy individuals within the population and the resulting effect on population growth rate in a changing environment by integrating processes from goals 1, 2 and 3. To date, this has been hampered by the lack of long-term data on personality and life histories in any long-lived species in the wild. For the first time ever, we have tested in a controlled environment the response to a novel situation for ~1800 individuals for more than a decade to define individual personality variation along the shy-bold continuum that we can relate to the life history traits over the entire species life cycle using unique long-term individual mark-recapture data sets for this iconic polar species. The novelty of this project thus lies in the combination of personality, foraging and demographic data to understand and forecast population responses to global change using state-of-the-art statistical analysis and eco-evolutionary modeling approaches. Intellectual Merit: While there is ubiquitous evidence of personality differences across taxa, the implications for life-history are less clear, and the consequences for population dynamics virtually unexplored empirically. How the phenotypic distributions of personality and foraging behaviors types within a population is created and maintained by ecological (demographic and phenotypic plasticity) and evolutionary (heritability) processes remain an open question. Personality traits are a crucial link between how individuals acquire resources, and how they allocate these to reproduction and survival, and this trade-off drives population dynamics. However, although some studies have found different foraging behaviors or breeding performances between personality types, none have established the link between personality- foraging behaviors – life histories (both reproduction and survival, and their covariations) in the context of climate change. Furthermore plasticity in foraging behaviors is not considered in the pace-of-life syndrome, which has potentially hampered our ability to find covariation between personality and life history trade-off. Research into the heritability of personality traits has revealed a strong heritable component, but studies looking at the heritability of foraging behaviors are lacking. For the first time ever, this project will fill these knowledge gaps and integrate in an eco-evolutionary model the complex interaction among individual personality and foraging plasticity, heritability of personality and foraging behaviors, life history strategies, population dynamics in a changing environment (fisheries and climate). Furthermore, this project will provide for the first time projections of population size and structure under future global change using state-of-the-art climate projections from IPCC-class atmospheric-oceanic global circulation models.
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