- 2018–Present: PhD Researcher, London NERC DTP, Institute of Zoology and University College London
- 2016–2017: MRes in Biodiversity, Evolution and Conservation, University College London
- 2011–2014: BA in Natural Sciences: Zoology, University of Cambridge
I am interested in behaviour, ecology, and conservation, and the overlaps between them. In particular, I am interested in how animal behaviour can be affected by environmental and anthropogenic factors, and how this can have both positive and negative impacts on their survival. At times, conservation practitioners are forced to act to intervene in a species decline before that species’ life history is completely understood, and interventions may therefore have unintended consequences, which I am interested in understanding in order to work out how management strategies can be optimised to conserve nature that is at risk.
My PhD project aims to establish the key factors underlying hatching failure in birds, focusing on environmental, behavioural and disease-related drivers. Hatching failure is a relatively common occurrence within birds, with around 10% of eggs failing to hatch. However, this rate of failure can be much higher in endangered bird species, with consequences for conservation programmes and captive breeding programmes. Until recently, the vast majority of eggs which failed to hatch without obvious signs of embryo development were classified as ‘infertile’, however, recent work has shown that often these eggs are actually fertilised but fail to hatch due to embryo death at a very early developmental stage. Previous research has also suggested that there are differential reasons behind hatching failure in managed wild vs. captive threatened bird populations, with infertility being the leading cause of hatching failure in birds in captivity, while the majority of hatching failure in managed wild populations is due to early embryo mortality.
I will primarily focus on managed populations in the UK and in New Zealand, which experience high and increasing levels of hatching failure. I will work with ZSL’s captive and wild breeding programmes and with New Zealand conservation programmes working with the hihi (Notiomystis cincta), kakī (Himantopus novaezelandiae), kākāpō (Strigops habroptilus), tara-iti (Sternula nereis), and tūtutuatu (Thinornis novaeseelandiae), to identify patterns of infertility and early embryo mortality within and between species using newly validated techniques. I will then investigate the underlying intrinsic and extrinsic causes, concentrating on environmental, behavioural, and disease-related influences. The ultimate goal of my project is to identify how and why various factors have consequences for hatching success in different managed populations, and to use this understanding to offer advice towards management decisions and interventions, ultimately helping to bring species back from the brink of extinction.
Dr Patricia Brekke, Institute of Zoology
Professor Francois Balloux, University College London
Dr Nicola Hemmings, University of Sheffield
Assersohn, K.*, Marshall, A. F.*, Morland, F.*, Brekke, P.†, Hemmings, N.† (2021) Why do eggs fail? Causes of hatching failure in threatened populations and consequences for conservation. Animal Conservation. doi: 10.1111/acv.12674. *These authors contributed equally to this work † Joint senior authors
Marshall, A. F., Bardua, C., Gower, D. J., Wilkinson, M., Sherratt, E., Goswami, A. High-density three-dimensional morphometric analyses support conserved static (intraspecific) modularity in caecilian (Amphibia: Gymnophiona) crania. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 2019 126(4):721-742. doi: 10.1093/biolinnean/blz001.
Marshall, A., Schulte to Bühne, H., Bland, L., Pettorelli, N. Assessing ecosystem collapse risk in ecosystems dominated by foundation species: The case of fringe mangroves. Ecological Indicators. 2018 91:128-137. doi: org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2018.03.076.
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