PhD Studentship Funding from Tromso University


This funding is an extension to a PhD studentship on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in great skuas. The work is investigating levels, and effects, of POPs in this marine top predator. Work is in collaboration with researchers in Norway, Iceland, and Canada, and is comparing pollutant burdens in skuas in Scotland, Iceland and Norway. Great skuas are particularly suitable study birds as they accumulate high concentrations of these pollutants. We have been tracking the migrations of individual birds to examine the influence of individual wintering area on pollutant accumulation, and comparing levels between breeding colonies at different latitudes. This allows comparison of the relative accumulation rates of more and less volatile compounds (predictions being that more volatile compounds will be relatively more abundant at colder latitudes). Given the high degree of dietary specialisation of great skuas we have also been investigating diets of these birds directly and through analysis of stable isotopes. This project has recently been complemented by new work starting in 2012 which adds the Faroe Islands into the project, with funding from Statoil, and will compare POP levels in birds from the Faroes (where great skuas are especially predatory on other seabirds), jointly supervised by Dr Ruedi Nager.

For further details and some initial findings see for example:

  • Leat, E.H.K., Bourgeon, S., Borgå, K., Strøm, H., Hanssen, S.A., Gabrielsen, G.W., Petersen, A., Olafsdottir, K., Magnusdottir, E., Fisk, A.T., Ellis, S., Bustnes, J.O. and Furness, R.W. 2011. Effects of environmental exposure and diet on levels of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in eggs of a top predator in the North Atlantic in 1980 and 2008. Environmental Pollution 159, 1222-1228.
  • Magnusdottir, E., Leat, E.H.K., Bourgeon, S., Strøm, H., Petersen, A., Phillips, R.A., Hanssen, S.A., Bustnes, J.O., Hersteinsson, P. and Furness, R.W. 2012. Wintering areas of great skuas Stercorarius skua breeding in Scotland, Iceland and Norway. Bird Study DOI:10.1080/00063657.2011.636798.