Steffen Oppel - Current Research Projects

Vulture conservation in the Balkans and Turkey
In collaboration with BirdLife partners in Bulgaria (BSPB), Greece (HOS), Macedonia (MES) and Turkey (DD) we aim to understand the causes of ongoing population declines in Egyptian Vultures. The project uses satellite telemetry to illuminate migration routes and wintering areas of Egyptian Vultures, and examines environmental factors affecting breeding success and territory abandonment in breeding areas. Threats to Egyptian Vultures are diverse and include poisoning, electrocution, direct persecution, and changes in land use and livestock farming. These threats operate over vast geographic areas along the flyway, and finding a feasible way to save the species is a considerable challenge.

Eradication of invasive species from islands
Invasive non-native species are a main concern for biodiversity, especially on islands. Eradicating invasive species is a useful conservation strategy, but often difficult to implement. I work with partners in the UK and internationally to prioritise islands on which eradication would provide the greatest benefits to native species, and conduct research how eradications on priority islands can be conducted successfully.

Tracking seabirds in the South Atlantic
Together with the local governments of Tristan da Cunha, Ascension and St Helena, we are trying to identify the foraging areas of seabirds nesting on these islands by tracking birds with satellite transmitters or GPS loggers. Tracking focusses on globally threatened seabirds on Tristan, and on Masked Boobies, Ascension Frigatebirds, and Red-billed Tropicbirds on the two tropical islands. We aim to identify areas that could be proposed as marine protected areas.

Foraging ecology of Northern Bald Ibis
The Northern Bald Ibis is critically endangered and extinct in the wild in Turkey. A semi-captive population exists in Birecik, SE Turkey, where birds are free-flying during the breeding season. The Turkish BirdLife partner DD studies the foraging ecology of free-flying Northern Bald Ibis from the colony in Birecik to explore the habitat requirements of the species during the breeding season, and to identify sites in Turkey where another breeding centre could be established.

Storm Petrels in the South Atlantic
In collaboration with the local governments of Ascension and St Helena and collaborators at Queen's University (Ontario, Canada) we are trying to resolve the taxonomic status of storm petrels in the South Atlantic. Similar to islands in the North Atlantic, St Helena has two seasonal breeding populations of 'Madeiran' Storm Petrel (Oceanodroma castro), which may have diverged into different species. In 2012 we started a ringing programme to estimate population size, collect genetic samples, and establish a long-term monitoring programme using mark-recapture and sound recording.

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