I am a PhD-student at the Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) on Texel, with one year to go. I am interested in the foraging ecology of red knots (medium-sized migratory shorebirds), wintering in Banc d’Arguin, Mauritania. There, red knots mainly forage on different species of bivalves. They are picky in the species and sizes that they eat. The first part of my PhD was to find the “rules” by which red knots choose their prey, and predict diet choice and energy intake rates, depending on the availability of the different bivalve prey species. We found that, due to the low digestibility of some prey, and the slight toxicity of other prey (containing sulfide), the birds aim at a mixed diet, containing multiple prey species. Also, prey choice by red knots depends on the size of their digestive organs, which is very variable.
One of my dreams is to implement this diet choice behavior into a population model, and find out how this diet choice behavior may be affecting population dynamics of consumer (red knot) and resource (the different bivalve species). The absence of birds during summer may be something that has to be accounted for. During my masters I have been working with stage-structured population models in the group of André de Roos, and since then have been wondering about the potential influence of behavior on the functional response.