Linking behavioural, physiological and demographic responses to climate change

Wandering albatross in flight (Photo: Mike Double)

There is an increasing body of evidence highlighting ecological alterations induced by climate change across the globe. Recently, Henri Weimerskirch and his colleagues showed that the wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans), a wide-ranging Sub-Antarctic seabird responded behaviourally, physiologically and demographically to changing wind patterns. This bird, which takes advantage of winds to reduce the flying cost, benefited from stronger winds and could cover more distance during foraging trips. Consequently, individuals increased in mass and had a higher reproductive success. Taking into consideration the potential changes in the environment is crucial to efficiently manage wild populations. Changes in the environment can be linked to demographic rates using behavioural and physiological traits as state variables. Using a trait-based model, we aim to investigate the effects of changes in foraging patterns and physiology, whether directly or indirectly induced by environmental changes, on the population dynamics of the wandering albatross. Quantifying movement and foraging patterns as a trait adds a new dimension to the existing trait-based modeling approaches. This model will enable us to (1) determine the most critical life history processes or pathways governing the population  persistence,  and  (2)  predict  population,  behavioural  and  phenotypic dynamics  under alternative climate change scenarios.


In collaboration with:

Tina Cornioley | PhD Student

Tina Cornioley

I am an ecologist combining population ecology, evolutionary ecology and animal movement analysis. Using a theoretical approach on field data, I aim to investigate the adaptive (plastic) phenotypic response of a population to environmental changes and the resulting population fluctuation. I am especially interested in determining behavioral (foraging movements) and physiological (body mass variation) responses and their effects on fitness. My current research focuses on the impact of climate changes on the population dynamic of the Wandering Albatross. Using tracking data, I identify changes in foraging movement as a response to climatic conditions and link movement changes to individuals’ body mass variation. My objective is then to build a demographic trait-based model in which life history traits of the population are explained by individuals’ 1) foraging movements and 2) body condition. Ultimately, these results can be used to make informed conservation decisions.



  • 2013-present, PhD student, Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies,
    University of Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2011-2012, MSc in Environmental Economics and Environmental Management, University of York, UK
  • 2009-2011, MSc in Biology: Ecology and Evolution, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
  • 2006-2009, BSc in Biology, University of Fribourg, Switzerland



  • Cornioley T, Börger L, Ozgul A, Weimerskirch H (2016) Impact of changing wind conditions on foraging and incubation success in male and female wandering albatrosses. Journal of Animal Ecology
  • Cornioley T, Jenouvrier S, Börger L, Weimerskirch H, Ozgul A (2017) Fathers matter: male body mass affects life-history traits in a size-dimorphic seabird. Proceedings of the Royal Society B