Julia Braga Morais
Co-supervised by Associate Professor Andre Chiaradia, Phillip Island Nature Parks
Julia’s PhD project will investigate how changes in the environment influence the foraging and breeding performance of little penguins in the urban colony of St Kilda. This study will focus on their spatial distribution, foraging performance, dietary diversity, diving behaviour and reproductive outcome. Despite many potential stressors, the St Kilda colony is increasing, as penguins in this enclosed bay have benefitted from the reliable presence of prey. However, climate change and anthropogenic activities can affect the availability and diversity of prey resources, triggering behavioural plasticity responses, such as changes in trophic level foraging choices, which can lead to variations in fitness, breeding and foraging efficiency.
Questions that she will address include: How is this unique colony responding to the fast ecological changes? Has penguin habitat usage changed over time in the face of environmental alterations? Is the colony population success reflected on favourable individual fitness parameters and dietary choices? Findings from this study can help identify threats to this little penguin colony and guide conservation practices for long-term wildlife management success.