Michael Williamson is a PhD student in the Department of Geography. He is interested in using tagging technologies and remote sensing to investigate the movement ecology of marine fauna and how this can be altered by environmental change and anthropogenic disturbance.
Thesis title: 'The environmental drivers influencing the movement ecology of reef sharks in the British Indian Ocean Territory'
Coral reef systems, which provide valuable habitat for shark and ray species, are facing unprecedented pressures. Marine predators play an important role in coral reef ecosystem functioning. As such, understanding how reef sharks utilise reef ecosystems, and how this alters with changing environmental conditions, is important for the conservation of both shark species and reefs themselves. Animal movement networks are a novel tool that can reveal important insights into ecological connectivity and wildlife behaviour.
Given climate change is predicted to cause increased fluctuations in environmental factors, integrating environmental data into movement analysis techniques and investigating how environmental factors can influence the movement dynamics and spatial networks of species are important for future shark conservation and management. Increasingly powerful remotely-sensed satellite data is available to researchers. However, despite this, there is currently little integration of environmental data into wildlife movement and social networks.
Michael's research integrates acoustic telemetry data on reef sharks and satellite remote sensing to explore the environmental drivers of shark movement data and investigate new methods for monitoring coral reef health to provide insights into how animal movement and social patterns are influenced by environmental change (eg the El Niño–Southern Oscillation event during 2015-2016). This is valuable data for policymakers to aid management decisions for the conservation of highly mobile marine fauna.
- Principal supervisor: Emma Tebbs