Changing their behaviour is one of the fastest ways animals can adapt, but what limits this ability? 

Our research focuses on hihi (Notiomystis cincta), a songbird endemic to New Zealand found only in highly protected sites (see here for more).  Translocation (movement of individuals to seed new populations) has been used over the last 30 years to establish new populations - but it remains unclear why this tool is sometimes more successful than others.  

We are investigating if the ways which animals acquire and use information influences their abilities to adapt to new locations.  Do early-life experiences shape how juveniles learn about their environment? Can qualities of social relationships affect their survival?

Our goal is to determine the optimal mix of social characteristics that gives founder populations the best chance at establishment and growth.

Main collaborators: John Ewen & Patricia Brekke (Institute of Zoology, London), Leila Walker (RSPB)

We are using PIT-tag technology to track interactions among individuals. Image by Donal Smith

We are using PIT-tag technology to track interactions among individuals. Image by Donal Smith

We experiment with novel food sources and competition - here a male hihi cannot access food because of competition from bellbirds. Image by Michelle Roper

We experiment with novel food sources and competition - here a male hihi cannot access food because of competition from bellbirds. Image by Michelle Roper