Ms. Katherine Booth Jones
Name: Katherine Booth Jones
Job title: PhD Student
• 2012 – present: PhD student, Institute of Zoology: The effects of genotype and environment on the large-scale non-migratory distribution patterns of a tropical seabird.
• 2011 – 2012: Resource Links and Data Management Assistant, University of Reading
• 2009 – 2010: Volunteer Assistant Warden, Round Island, Mauritius. Mauritian Wildlife Foundation.
• 2007 – 2011: BSc Zoology (First Class), Cardiff University
My PhD focuses on the dispersal behaviour and species composition of a population of Pterodroma petrels breeding at Round Island, Mauritius (Indian Ocean). This population is of significant interest to research into evolutionary biology, as it represents an extremely rare example of a naturally occurring multispecies hybrid swarm of at least three species in tetrapod vertebrates. The population has recently been shown to comprise of individuals with genetic similarities to the Trindade Petrel from the southern Atlantic Ocean, and the Kermadec and Herald Petrels from the southern Pacific Ocean. There have also been anecdotal sightings of petrels of similar plumage to Phoenix Petrel on the island. This has implications not only in the understanding of evolution, dispersal and phylogenetics, but also in how hybridisation may affect the ecological fitness of populations and hence their conservation. As global environmental conditions undergo dramatic changes, secondary contact between closely related but previously separated species may increase, potentially leading to a homogenisation of important genetic diversity, or even the creation of new species. This potential loss or gain of biodiversity, in addition to the need to understand how closely related, hybridising species may respond to environmental change, makes the petrels of Round Island a unique, timely opportunity to study this within a natural system.
The aim of the research project my PhD sits within is to understand how the impacts of environmental change may have population level consequences, and how this is linked to an individual’s ability to disperse, thereby enabling it to change the environmental conditions it is exposed to. The dispersal behaviour of a species is in turn related to its evolutionary history. We predict that petrels of different genetic backgrounds will have different dispersal strategies, thus be differently affected by environmental factors such as ocean conditions and that this will affect population dynamics such as breeding success and survival. My PhD contributes to this aim by investigating the distribution of petrels when they are found at their breeding colony on Round Island, looking at the intra-population variation in this distribution and explaining variation with regards to both large-scale ocean processes and genetic background.
Professor Ken Norris, Institute of Zoology
Dr Malcolm Nicoll, Institute of Zoology
Professor Kate Jones, University College London