The Department of Biological Sciences has an expanding research base, which, in addition to providing leading researchers of national and international standing in these areas, most importantly underpins the delivery of teaching. Research in Biological Sciences at Chester can be divided into three broad groups of expertise, namely Animal Behaviour and Conservation, Food Nutrition and Health, and Stress and Disease.

Recent Submissions

  • Chapter Twelve: Handling and Restraint of South American Camelids

    McLennan, Krista M; Chapman, Stella; University of Chester; University Centre Hartpury (Wiley, 2018-01-01)
    Members of the camelid family evolved to live in arid and mountainous areas. This chapter will focus on what are known as the New World species of camelid, whose habitat mainly covers the Andes regions of South America. Four camelids can be found in South America, namely: Guanacos (Lama guanicoe), vicunas (Lama vicugna), llamas (Lama guanicoe glama) and alpacas (Vicugna pacos). The two wild forms, the guanaco and the vicuna diverged from a common ancestor approximately two million years ago; an event unrelated to domestication. Due to hybridisation the exact process of domestication has been controversial; however, recent genetic analysis has suggested that the alpaca is the domesticated form of the vicuna and the llama is the domesticated form of the guanaco (Kadwell et al. 2001). Domestication is thought to have taken place some 6000 years ago (Wheeler, 1995) when a predominant herding economy based on llama and alpaca was established at Telarmachay (a region of the Peruvian Andes). Archaeological evidence suggests that both llamas and alpacas were part of a sacrificial rite in South American culture and were key to the expansion of the Inca Empire some 500 years ago (Bonacic, 2011). Physically (apart from size) there is little difference between the llama and alpaca, which is a result of deliberate hybridisation between the two species over the past 35 years. Whilst the alpaca and llama still play an important role in their countries of origin, they are also viewed worldwide as: pets, exotic animals, livestock, zoo animals and wild animals.
  • ‘Regurgitation and reingestion’ (R/R) in great apes: A review of current knowledge

    Hill, Sonya; University of Chester; University of Cambridge (Wiley, 2018-08-02)
    Research indicates that regurgitation and reingestion (R/R) is a relatively common behaviour in zoo-housed great apes, with most work to date carried out on Western lowland gorillas Gorilla gorilla gorilla and Chimpanzees Pan troglodytes. It is an abnormal behaviour because great apes are not anatomically adapted to regurgitate their food as part of their normal feeding processes, and because this behaviour is not seen in members of the species living freely in the wild, in conditions that would allow a full behavioural range. In this article, I give an overview of the published literature on R/R in great apes, which suggests that this behaviour is probably multifactorial and may be linked to inappropriate feeding environments (e.g. in terms of nutritional composition of the diet and/or presentation of food), and possibly also social and other factors as well. A similar behaviour to R/R, known as rumination disorder, can also occur in another great ape species, humans, in whom it is classified as a feeding and eating disorder, and there are potential consequences to people’s physical health as a result of oral acid. There have been no known studies to date to identify whether or not similar health consequences can occur in non-human great apes, but the regurgitant has been found to be significantly more acidic in gorillas than the food they ingested originally, meaning it is potentially injurious in non-human great apes. There is much that is not yet known about this behaviour and how to reduce or eliminate it when it does occur, as the research indicates that there are a range of factors involved, and these can vary by individual animal. More research into this behaviour is clearly needed to ensure that zoos and sanctuaries are providing the best possible care for these animals, and I make some suggestions for future research directions.
  • Why pain is still a welfare issue for farm animals, and how facial expression may be the answer

    McLennan, Krista; University of Chester (MDPI, 2018-08-11)
    Pain is a sensory and emotional experience that significantly affects animal welfare and has negative impacts on the economics of farming. Pain is often associated with common production diseases such as lameness and mastitis, as well as introduced to the animal through routine husbandry practices such as castration and tail docking. Farm animals are prey species which tend not to overtly express pain or weakness, making recognizing and evaluating pain incredibly difficult. Current methods of pain assessment do not provide information on what the animal is experiencing at that moment in time, only that its experience is having a long term negative impact on its behavior and biological functioning. Measures that provide reliable information about the animals’ affective state in that moment are urgently required; facial expression as a pain assessment tool has this ability. Automation of the detection and analysis of facial expression is currently in development, providing further incentive to use these methods in animal welfare assessment.
  • Activating KIR Haplotype Influences Clinical Outcome Following HLA-Matched Sibling Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation.

    Heatley, S. L.; Mullighan, C. G.; Doherty, K.; O'Connor, Geraldine, M.; Hahn, U.; Szer, J.; Schwarer, A.; Bradstock, K.; Sullivan, L. C.; Bardy, P. G.; Brooks, A. G.; University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Vic, Australia; Australian Red Cross Blood Service, Adelaide, SA, Australia; St Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN, USA; 4 Royal Adelaide and Queen Elizabeth Hospitals, SA Pathology, Adelaide, SA, Australia; Royal Melbourne Hospital, Melbourne, Vic, Australia; Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, Vic, Australia; Westmead Hospital, Sydney, NSW, Australia (Wiley, 2018-06-25)
    Natural killer cells are thought to influence the outcome of hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT), impacting on relapse, overall survival, graft versus host disease and the control of infection, in part through the complex interplay between the large and genetically diverse killer immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR) family and their ligands. This study examined the relationship between KIR gene content and clinical outcomes including the control of opportunistic infections such as cytomegalovirus in the setting of human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-matched sibling HSCT in an Australian cohort. The presence of the KIR B haplotype which contain more activating receptors in the donor, in particular centromeric B haplotype genes (Cen-B), was associated with improved overall survival of patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) undergoing sibling HSCT and receiving myeloablative conditioning. Donor Cen-B haplotype was also associated with reduced acute graft versus host disease grades II-IV whereas donor telomeric-B haplotype was associated with decreased incidence of CMV reactivation. In contrast, we were not able to demonstrate a reduced rate of relapse when the donor had KIR Cen-B, however relapse with a donor Cen-A haplotype was a competing risk factor to poor overall survival. Here we show that the presence of donor activating KIR led to improved outcome for the patient, potentially through reduced relapse rates and decreased incidence of acute GvHD translating to improved overall survival.
  • A call to action for climate change research on Caribbean dry forests

    Nelson, Howard, P.; Devenish-Nelson, Eleanor S.; Rusk, Bonnie L.; Geary, Matthew; Lawrence, Andrew J.; Department of Biological Sciences, University of Chester; Grenada Dove Conservation Programme, St. Georges, Grenada (Springer, 2018-04-23)
    Tropical dry forest (TDF) is globally one of the most threatened forest types. In the insular Caribbean, limited land area and high population pressure have resulted in the loss of over 60% of TDF, yet local people’s reliance on these systems for ecosystem services is high. Given the sensitivity of TDF to shifts in precipitation regimes and the vulnerability of the Caribbean to climate change, this study examined what is currently known about the impacts of climate change on TDF in the region. A systematic review (n = 89) revealed that only two studies addressed the ecological response of TDF to climate change. Compared to the rapidly increasing knowledge of the effects of climate change on other Caribbean systems and on TDF in the wider neotropics, this paucity is alarming given the value of these forests. We stress the need for long-term monitoring of climate change responses of these critical ecosystems, including phenological and hotspot analyses as priorities.
  • Female clustering in cockroach aggregations – a case of social niche construction?

    Stanley, Christina; Preziosi, Richard F.; Liddiard Williams, H.; University of Chester, University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University (Wiley, 2018)
    Individuals in groups can suffer costs through interactions with adversarial or unknown conspecifics. Social niche construction allows individuals to buffer such potential costs by only engaging in preferred associations. This may be particularly beneficial in insect aggregations, which are often large and highly fluid. However, little is known regarding the structuring of such aggregations. Here we use social network analyses to test for fine-scale social structure in resting aggregations of the sub-social cockroach Diploptera punctata and to explore the social pressures that contribute towards such structure. We showed that females were significantly more gregarious than males and formed the core of the proximity network, thus demonstrating a higher level of social integration. This fine-scale structure is likely to result from females displacing males; females initiated most displacements whilst males received the majority. We explain this behaviour in terms of social niche construction by showing that females received significantly fewer approaches and investigations at more female-biased local sex ratios. We therefore suggest that female social clustering occurs in this, and presumably other, species to reduce potential costs associated with male harassment. This demonstrates how social niche construction can lead to higher level social structure; we suggest this approach could be used across a range of species in order to improve our understanding of the evolution of sociality.
  • Extraction, identification and biological activities of saponins in sea cucumber Pearsonothuria graeffei

    Khattaba, Rafat A.; Elbandy, Mohamed; Lawrence, Andrew; Paget, Tim; Rae-Rho, Jung; Binnasera, Yaser S.; Alih, Imran; Taibah University; Suez Canal University; Jizan University; Alarish University; University of Chester; Sunderland University; Kunsan National University; Central University, New Delhi (Bentham Science, 2018-04-01)
    Secondary metabolism in marine organisms produced a diversity of biological important natural compounds which are unpresented in terrestrial species. Sea cucumbers belong to the invertebrate Echinodermata and are famous for their nutraceutical, medical and food values. They are known for possession triterpenoid glycosides (saponins) with various ecological roles. The current work aimed to separate, identify and test various biological activities (anti-bacterial, antifungal, antileishmanial and anticancer properties) of saponins produced by the holothurian Pearsonothuria graeffei from the Red Sea, Egypt.
  • Direct and indirect causal effects of heterozygosity on fitness-related traits in Alpine ibex

    Brambilla, Alice; Biebach, Iris; Bassano, Bruno; Bogliani, Giuseppe; von Hardenberg, Achaz; Università di Pavia, Italy; University of Zurich, Switzerland; Gran Paradiso National Park, Italy; University of Chester, UK (The Royal Society, 2015-01-07)
    Heterozygosity–fitness correlations (HFCs) are a useful tool to investigate the effects of inbreeding in wild populations, but are not informative in distinguishing between direct and indirect effects of heterozygosity on fitness-related traits. We tested HFCs in male Alpine ibex (Capra ibex) in a free-ranging population (which suffered a severe bottleneck at the end of the eighteenth century) and used confirmatory path analysis to disentangle the causal relationships between heterozygosity and fitness-related traits. We tested HFCs in 149 male individuals born between 1985 and 2009. We found that standardized multi-locus heterozygosity (MLH), calculated from 37 microsatellite loci, was related to body mass and horn growth, which are known to be important fitness-related traits, and to faecal egg counts (FECs) of nematode eggs, a proxy of parasite resistance. Then, using confirmatory path analysis, we were able to show that the effect of MLH on horn growth was not direct but mediated by body mass and FEC. HFCs do not necessarily imply direct genetic effects on fitness-related traits, which instead can be mediated by other traits in complex and unexpected ways.
  • Helpers influence on territory use and maintenance in Alpine marmot groups

    Pasquaretta, Cristian; Busia, Laura; Ferrari, Caterina; Bogliani, Giuseppe; Reale, Denis; von Hardenberg, Achaz; University of Pavia, Universiteé du Quebec a Montreal, Gran Paradiso National Park (2015-04-22)
    In social mammals, territory size and shape vary according to the number and strength of neighbour individuals competing for resources. Two main theories have been proposed to explain this variability: the Group Augmentation (GA) and the realized Resource Holding Potential (rRHP) hypotheses. The first states that the outcome of the interactions among groups depends on the total number of individuals in the group while the second states that only the number of animals directly involved in intergroup competition determines this outcome. We collected data on space use of individually tagged Alpine marmots ( Marmota marmota), a cooperative breeding species that overlaps part of its territory with neighbouring groups. In accordance with the rRHP hypothesis, we found that groups having higher proportion of helpers, rather than higher total number of individuals, had lower percentage of the territory overlapping with neighbouring groups and a larger area available for individual exclusive use.
  • Higher risk of gastrointestinal parasite infection at lower elevation suggests possible constraints in the distributional niche of Alpine marmots

    Zanet, Stefania; Miglio, Giacomo; Ferrari, Caterina; Bassano, Bruno; Ferroglio, Ezio; von Hardenberg, Achaz; Università di Torino; Gran Paradiso National Park; University of Chester (Public Library of Science, 2017-08-01)
    Alpine marmots Marmota marmota occupy a narrow altitudinal niche within high elevation alpine environments. For animals living at such high elevations where resources are limited, parasitism represents a potential major cost in life history. Using occupancy models, we tested if marmots living at higher elevation have a reduced risk of being infected with gastrointestinal helminths, possibly compensating the lower availability of resources (shorter feeding season, longer snow cover and lower temperature) than marmots inhabiting lower elevations. Detection probability of eggs and oncospheres of two gastro-intestinal helminthic parasites, Ascaris laevis and Ctenotaenia marmotae, sampled in marmot feces, was used as a proxy of parasite abundance. As predicted, the models showed a negative relationship between elevation and parasite detectability (i.e. abundance) for both species, while there appeared to be a negative effect of solar radiance only for C. marmotae. Site-occupancy models are used here for the first time to model the constrains of gastrointestinal parasitism on a wild species and the relationship existing between endoparasites and environmental factors in a population of free-living animals. The results of this study suggest the future use of site-occupancy models as a viable tool to account for parasite imperfect detection in ecoparasitological studies, and give useful insights to further investigate the hypothesis of the contribution of parasite infection in constraining the altitudinal niche of Alpine marmots.
  • Involvement of recreational anglers in the eradication of alien brook trout from high altitude lakes

    Tiberti, R.; Ottino, M.; Brighenti, S.; Iacobuzio, R.; Rolla, M.; von Hardenberg, Achaz; Bassano, B.; Gran Paradiso National Park, University of Pavia, Università degli studi di Trento, Fondazione E. Mach, Università degli Studi di Milano, Swansea University, University of Chester (Gran Paradiso National Park Agency, 2017)
    Stocking programmes for recreational angling are primarily responsible for the spread and ecological impact of introduced sh in high-altitude, originally shless lakes. In 2013, the Gran Paradiso National Park started an eradication campaign of brook trout by intensive gill-netting. Local anglers were invited to attend two angling sessions to start the eradication before gill-netting in an experimental lake, as part of an education action devoted to these critical stakeholders. The angling sessions turned out to be a valuable help for the eradication campaign and the aim of this study is to report on the outcomes of these angling sessions. Angling techniques were highly size-selective, removing a substantial part of the adult population and of the sh biomass, but their contribution to the eradication of small sh (<15cm) was irrelevant. Therefore, angling cannot completely eradicate age-structured populations. However, there is scope to use angling sessions as a support for eradication campaigns and as an emergency measure for recent sh introduc- tions. Similar actions should be considered whenever a sh eradication programme is planned. These ndings, however, do not imply a general endorsement for angling within protected areas.
  • Predicting the potential distribution of the Endangered huemul deer Hippocamelus bisulcus in North Patagonia

    Quevedo, Paloma; von Hardenberg, Achaz; Pastore, Hernan; Alvarez, Jose; Corti, Paulo; Ernst-Moritz-Arndt Universität, Greifswald, Germany; University of Chester; Administración de Parques Nacionales, Bariloche, Argentina;Corporación Nacional Forestal, Chile, Universidad Austral de Chile (2017-04)
    Habitat loss is one of the main threats to wildlife, particularly large mammals. Estimating the potential distribution of threatened species to guide surveys and conservation is crucial, primarily because such species tend to exist in small fragmented populations. The Endangered huemul deer Hippocamelus bisulcus is endemic to the southern Andes of Chile and Argentina. Although the species occurs in the Valdivian Ecoregion, a hotspot for biodiversity, we have no information on its occupancy and potential distribution in this region. We built and compared species distribution models for huemul using the maximum entropy approach, using 258 presence records and sets of bioclimatic and geographical variables as predictors, with the objective of assessing the potential distribution of the species in the Valdivian Ecoregion. Annual temperature range and summer precipitation were the predictive variables with the greatest influence in the best-fitting model. Approximately 12,360 km2 of the study area was identified as suitable habitat for the huemul, of which 30% is included in the national protected area systems of Chile and Argentina. The map of potential distribution produced by our model will facilitate prioritization of future survey efforts in other remote and unexplored areas in which huemul have not been recorded since the 1980s, but where there is a high probability of their occurrence.
  • Thermal niche predicts recent changes in range size for bird species

    Scridel, D.; Bogliani, G.; Pedrini, P.; Iemma, A.; von Hardenberg, Achaz; Brambilla, M.; Museo delle Scienze, Trento; University of Pavia, University of Chester, Fondzione Lombardia per l'Ambiente (Inter-Research Science Center (IR), 2017-08-30)
    Species’ distributions are strongly affected by climate, and climate change is affecting species and populations. Thermal niches are widely used as proxies for estimating thermal sensitivity of species, and have been frequently related to community composition, population trends and latitudinal/elevational shifts in distribution. To our knowledge, no work has yet explored the relationship between thermal niche and change in range size (changes in the number of occupied spatial units over time) in birds. In this study, we related a 30 yr change in range size to species thermal index (STI: average temperature at occurrence sites) and to other factors (i.e. birds’ associated habitats, body mass, hunting status) potentially affecting bird populations/range size. We analysed trends of breeding bird range in Italy for a suite of poorly studied cold-adapted animals potentially sensitive to global warming, and for a related group of control species taxonomically similar and with comparable mass but mainly occurring at lower/warmer sites. We found a strong positive correlation between change in range size and STI, confirming that recent climatic warming has favoured species of warmer climates and adversely affected species occupying colder areas. A model including STI and birds’ associated habitats was not so strongly supported, with forest species performing better than alpine open habitat and agricultural ones. In line with previous works highlighting effects of recent climate change on community composition, species’ population trends and poleward/upward distributional shifts, we found STI to be the most important predictor of change in range size variation in breeding birds.
  • MODIS time series contribution for the estimation of nutritional properties of alpine grassland

    Ranghetti, Luigi; Bassano, Bruno; Bogliani, Giuseppe; Polmonari, Alberto; Formigoni, Andrea; Stendardi, Laura; von Hardenberg, Achaz; Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche; Università di Pavia; Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso; Università di Bologna; Università di Firenze; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2017-02-17)
    Despite the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) has been used to make predictions on forage quality, its relationship with bromatological field data has not been widely tested. This relationship was investigated in alpine grasslands of the Gran Paradiso National Park (Italian Alps). Predictive models were built using remotely sensed derived variables (NDVI and phenological information computed from MODIS) in combination with geo-morphometric data as predictors of measured biomass, crude protein, fibre and fibre digestibility, obtained from 142 grass samples collected within 19 experimental plots every two weeks during the whole 2012 growing season. The models were both cross-validated and validated on an independent dataset (112 samples collected during 2013). A good predictability ability was found for the estimation of most of the bromatological measures, with a considerable relative importance of remotely sensed derived predictors; instead, a direct use of NDVI values as a proxy of bromatological variables appeared not to be supported.
  • Impact of tank background on the welfare of the African clawed frog, Xenopus laevis (Daudin)

    Holmes, Andrew M.; Emmans, Christopher J.; Jones, Niall; Coleman, Robert C.; Smith, Tessa E.; Hosie, Charlotte A.; University of Chester (Elsevier, 2016-09-14)
    The captive environment of a laboratory animal can profoundly influence its welfare and the scientific validity of research produced. The African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) is a common model organism, however current husbandry guidelines lack supporting quantitative evidence. The visual environment is a fundamental aspect of a captive animal’s housing and may affect a number of physiological and behavioural responses. This is particularly important for species such as X. laevis where cryptic camouflage is a fundamental defence mechanism. Here male (n = 16) and female (n = 20) X. laevis were housed in tanks with ecologically relevant (black) and non-relevant (white) background colours and physiological and behavioural responses observed. Higher levels of water-borne corticosterone were observed in tanks with a white background compared to a black background in females (p = 0.047). Increased atypical active behaviours (Swimming: p = 0.042; Walling: p = 0.042) and a greater degree of body mass loss (p < 0.001) were also observed in the white background condition. Together these responses are indicative of increased stress of X. laevis when housed in tanks with a non-ecologically relevant background compared to an ecologically relevant background and suggest refined tank background colour may improve welfare in this species.
  • Effects of transportation, transport medium and re-housing on Xenopus laevis (Daudin)

    Holmes, Andrew M.; Emmans, Christopher J.; Coleman, Robert C.; Smith, Tessa E.; Hosie, Charlotte A.; University of Chester (Elsevier, 2018-03-12)
    Understanding the immediate and longer-term effects of transportation and re-housing in a laboratory species is crucial in order to refine the transfer process, enable the optimal introduction of new animals to a novel environment and to provide a sufficient acclimatisation period before usage. Whilst consideration of animal welfare in most model vertebrate species has received attention, little quantitative evidence exists for the optimal care of the common laboratory amphibian Xenopus laevis. Techniques for the non-invasive welfare assessment of amphibians are also limited and here a non-invasive physiological assay was developed to investigate the impacts of transportation, transport medium and re-housing on X. laevis. First the impacts of transportation and transport medium (water, damp sponge or damp sphagnum moss) were investigated. Transportation caused an increase in waterborne corticosterone regardless of transport medium. Frogs transported in damp sphagnum moss also had a greater decrease in body mass in comparison to frogs not transported, suggesting that this is the least suitable transport medium for X. laevis. Next the prolonged impacts of transportation and re-housing were investigated. Frogs were transported between research facilities with different housing protocols. Samples were collected prior to and immediately following transportation, as well as 1 day, 7 days and 35 days after re-housing. Water-borne corticosterone increased following transportation and remained high for at least 7 days, decreasing to baseline levels by 35 days. Body mass decreased following transportation and remained lower than baseline levels across the entire 35 day observation period. These findings suggest the process of transportation and re-housing is stressful in this species. Together these findings have important relevance for both improving animal welfare and ensuring optimal and efficient scientific research.
  • Measuring physiological stress in the common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus): Validation of a salivary cortisol collection and assay technique

    Ash, Hayley; Smith, Tessa E.; Knight, Simon; Buchanan-Smith, Hannah M.; University of Stirling; University of Chester; Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl); University of Wisconsin (Elsevier, 2017-12-15)
    Cortisol levels are often used as a physiological measure of the stress response in captive primates, with non-invasive measures of this being an important step in welfare assessment. We report a method of collecting saliva samples voluntarily from unrestrained captive common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus), and validate an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) technique previously unused in this species. Saliva samples were collected from marmosets housed in pairs in a UK laboratory. The assay showed parallelism, precision, accuracy and sensitivity, meeting the criteria typically used to investigate the effectiveness of new analytical techniques. Use of Salimetrics® Oral Swabs considerably increased the amount of cortisol recovered in comparison with previous studies using cotton buds. However, while use of banana on the swabs can encourage chewing, it may influence results. Although increases in cortisol levels have traditionally been interpreted as an indicator of stress in primates, there are many factors that affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, with some studies showing decreases in cortisol levels post-stressor. Following a likely stressful event (capture for weighing), we also found cortisol levels significantly decreased, possibly due to social buffering or ‘blunting’ of the HPA axis. Order of weighing also had an effect. The method therefore provided an effective non-invasive means of assessing acute changes in cortisol level that may be more useful than previous methods, improving our ability to study physiological aspects of welfare in primates. We discuss methodological considerations, as well as implications of using cortisol as a measure of stress.
  • Technical note: Validation of an automatic recording system to assess behavioural activity level in sheep (Ovis aries).

    McLennan, Krista M.; Skillings, Elizabeth, A.; Rebelo, Carlos J. B.; Corke, Murray J.; Pires Moreira, Maria A.; Morton, A. Jennifer; Constantino-Casas, Fernando; University of Cambridge; Universidade Federal Rural do Semi-Arido (Elsevier, 2015-06-01)
    The welfare of an individual can be assessed by monitoring behavioural changes, such as inactivity, that may indicate injury or disease. In this study we validated the Actiwatch Mini® activity monitor (AM) for automatic recording of behavioural activity levels of nine Texel ewes. The AM devices were attached to collars placed around the necks of the ewes. AM recordings were taken at 25 second intervals for 21 consecutive days and in addition, direct behavioural observations made on days 9 to 13. AM recordings were compared with direct behavioural observations to investigate whether different levels of behaviour activity could be distinguished by the AM. Six different behaviours were matched to the activity scores recorded by the AM which were low activity (lying ruminating, lying), medium activity (standing, standing ruminating, and grazing) and high activity behaviours (walking). There were differences in the activity scores for all three scores. However, higher levels of accuracy in distinguishing between activity levels were achieved when combining high and medium activity level behaviours. This method of capturing data provides a practical tool in studies assessing the impact of disease or injury. For example, assessing the effects of lameness on the activity level of sheep at pasture, without the presence of an observer influencing behaviour.
  • Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus nest sites on the Isle of Mull are associated with habitat mosaics and constrained by topography

    Geary, Matthew; Haworth, Paul F.; Fielding, Alan H.; University of Chester; Haworth Conservation Ltd. (Taylor & Francis, 2018-02-07)
    Capsule: Hen Harrier on the Isle of Mull, UK, are associated with habitat mosaics consisting of moorland, scrub and forestry but avoid grazed land, suggesting that forested habitats could be managed sympathetically for Hen Harrier in the future should the current UK population increase. Aims: To use distribution modelling to investigate nesting habitat associations using a long term dataset for Hen Harrier on Mull. Methods: We develop area-interaction models using a LASSO penalty to explore the distribution of 102 Hen Harrier nest sites in relation to habitat and topography. Our model is then successfully validated in tests using data for 70 nest sites from subsequent years. Results: Our model is effective in predicting suitable areas for Hen Harrier nest sites and indicates that Hen Harriers on Mull are found in habitat mosaics below 200 m asl. Hen Harrier nest intensity is positively associated with increasing proportions of moorland and scrub, open canopy forestry and closed canopy forestry. Nest intensity is negatively associated with increasing proportions of grazed land. Conclusion: Hen Harrier avoid grazed areas but are relatively tolerant of other habitat combinations. These findings are supported by previous observations of Hen Harrier habitat use and have implications for the recovery of some Hen Harrier SPA populations and future forest management. Open canopy forest and forest mosaics could potentially be incorporated into landscape-scale conservation plans for Hen Harriers using the population in Mull as an example.
  • Maria Ogilvie Gordon

    Burek, Cynthia V.; University of Chester (University of Edinburgh, 2018-03)
    This is a biographical entry for Maria Ogilvie Gordon

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