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Wildlife Ecology Research

The Wildlife Ecology Section undertakes research on wild birds and mammals and is concerned with understanding the relationships between living creatures and their environment. We undertake research and provide advice based on our knowledge of how mammals move over time, the migratory routes undertaken by birds, and our understanding of how humans influence species distribution, abundance and behaviour. The fact that some birds and mammals move across large areas at different stages of their life cycle challenges our ability to study them and develop appropriate management strategies. 

Our core activities include:

  • developing sustainable solutions to protect species in cooperation with other researchers, stakeholder groups, statutory bodies and managers
  • undertaking research on the effects of land use change, industrial development and recreational activities and provide advice on conflict resolution and mitigation
  • monitoring huntable and protected species, for instance breeding birds, waterfowl and bats, including the compilation of hunting statistics and analyse changes in age and sex ratios from wings of hunter shot birds
  • using telemetry to investigate the movements of birds and mammals in the landscape.

Research areas in breaf

Kalø Hovedgaard / Photo: Aksel Bo Madsen ©
Kalø Hovedgård / Photo: Aksel Bo Madsen ©

Migratory birds

Water fowls / Photo: Thomas Eske Holm ©
Water fowls / Photo: Thomas Eske Holm ©

We are responsible for the national monitoring of waterbirds and we undertake research and provide advice on a wide range of migratory bird species both within and outside of Denmark. We undertake an annual assessment of population abundance and identify trends for the various species and investigate, among other things, changes in their migration routes, habitats and feeding ecology (i.e. how much and where they eat, and how they optimise their energy intake to meet their energy demands).

Contact

Rasmus Due Nielsen, Member of Administrative Staff, Department of Bioscience - Wildlife Ecology

Kevin Kuhlmann Clausen, Researcher, Department of Bioscience - Wildlife Ecology
Preben Clausen, Senior Researcher, Department of Bioscience - Wildlife Ecology
Anthony David Fox, Professor, Department of Bioscience - Wildlife Ecology

Breeding birds

Herring gulls / Photo: Thomas Eske Holm ©
Herring gulls / Photo: Thomas Eske Holm ©

Denmark is an important breeding area for birds, and our extensive coastal waters, fjords and lagoons provide a unique refuge. We monitor the annual abundance of many breeding populations to track their trends over time. We also develop novel monitoring methods, for example, comparing the efficiency of counting bird colonies through binoculars with photographs from drones. We also work to develop methods to monitor changes in the quality of habitats in the areas where the birds live.

Contact

Thomas Bregnballe, Senior Researcher, Department of Bioscience - Wildlife Ecology
Henning Heldbjerg, Member of Administrative Staff, Department of Bioscience - Wildlife Ecology
Thomas Eske Holm, Senior Advisor, Department of Bioscience - Wildlife Ecology
Claus Lunde Pedersen, Member of Administrative Staff, Department of Bioscience - Wildlife Ecology

Terrestrial mammals

Red deer marking / Photo: Jens Vinge ©
Red deer marking / Photo: Jens Vinge ©

Wild mammals must coexist with humans. We study how mammals live within and use the contemporary landscape, how populations develop and what key factors affect the distribution and abundance of different species. We use this knowledge to advise managers on how best to protect species and safeguard viable populations of all kinds of animals from bats, hares, stone martens and roe deer to beavers.

Read more about one of our projects here.

Contact

Peter Sunde, Senior Researcher, Department of Bioscience - Wildlife Ecology

Morten Elmeros, Senior Advisor, Department of Bioscience - Wildlife Ecology
Aksel Bo Madsen, Senior Researcher, Department of Bioscience - Wildlife Ecology

Problem species

Wolf / Photo: Kent Olsen ©
Wolf / Photo: Kent Olsen ©

We undertake research on species whose abundance or behaviour creates conflicts with human interests. In Denmark, such conflicts include those between fishermen and cormorants (that eat the “fisherman’s fish”), between farmers and red deer, swans, geese and rooks (that cause crop damage) and between city-dwellers and gulls (that have become a nuisance in urban areas). More recently, the return of wolves from Germany (because of livestock depredation) have created conflict with hunters and farmers.

Contact (birds)

Thomas Bregnballe, Senior Researcher, Department of Bioscience - Wildlife Ecology
Ole Roland Therkildsen, Senior Advisor, Department of Bioscience - Wildlife Ecology

Contact (mammals)

Peter Sunde, Senior Researcher, Department of Bioscience - Wildlife Ecology

Hunting and hunting statistics

Joint hunting / Photo: Aksel Bo Madsen ©
Joint hunting / Photo: Aksel Bo Madsen ©

In Denmark and throughout the EU, international directives require the sustainability of hunting. The huntable status of all quarry species is regularly evaluated on the basis of the annual number of animals shot in the context of the well-being and size of populations. We undertake research and provide advice on hunting and wildlife management, including how hunting affects bird and mammal populations, as well as their behaviour and habitat exploitation. Our research and advisory work is based on the Danish hunting bag statistics and the Danish Wing Survey.

Read more at the website Fauna.au.dk.

Contact

Thomas Kjær Christensen, Senior Researcher, Department of Bioscience - Wildlife Ecology
Lars Haugaard, Forest and Landscape Engineer, Department of Bioscience - Wildlife Ecology
Jacob Sterup, Member of Administrative Staff, Department of Bioscience - Wildlife Ecology

Population genetics and environmental DNA

Speciation / Photo: Liselotte Wesley Andersen ©
Speciation / Photo: Liselotte Wesley Andersen ©

We study the application of genetic markers to understand the genetic makeup of bird and mammal populations through genetic monitoring and studies of population genetics. Genetic markers are used to work up DNA profiles and DNA sequences, which we can use to identify individuals, determine species or to define populations within species. The analyses describe genetic differences and relationships between populations and between individuals in the same population, as well as to understand how populations evolve over time. We use such knowledge to evaluate the effects of hunting and other human influences on populations and species. Currently, we are investigating the use of environmental DNA (“eDNA” collected from media such as soil, water or excrement) to detect the instantaneous presence of single or multiple species to monitor changes in species composition in time and space.

Contact

Liselotte Wesley Andersen, Senior Researcher, Department of Bioscience - Wildlife Ecology

Adaptive nature management

Barnacle gees / Photo: Aksel Bo Madsen ©
Barnacle gees / Photo: Aksel Bo Madsen ©

Adaptive nature management is a particular way of managing nature, which combines the best available knowledge with the values that we collectively recognise as the basis for nature management. Adaptive nature management takes place as a shared learning processes involving the responsible authorities, experts and those who are or will be affected by the management. Adaptive nature management is based on the realisation that nature management is often complicated, plagued by uncertainties and subject to the contrasting needs and understanding of the constituencies involved. Based on delivery of key management projects, the Centre for Adaptive Nature Management develops knowledge and experience to make it easier to understand how to improve the future management of habitats and species in collaboration with the key humans involved.

Read more at can.au.dk

Contact

Jesper Madsen, Professor and Head of Centre for Adaptive Nature Management, Department of Bioscience - Wildlife Ecology

Kevin Kuhlmann Clausen, Researcher, Department of Bioscience - Wildlife Ecology

Human influences including climate

Wind turbines at Middelgrunden / Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Kim Hansen
Wind turbines at Middelgrunden / Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Kim Hansen

We study how human activities impact on wild bird and mammal populations and to understand how minimise them. We assess the effects of disturbances from hunting or sailing, effects from the construction of roads and wind turbines and the adverse impacts of environmental hazardous substances and pesticides on organisms and populations. Increasingly, a new focus of research is on impacts (positive and adverse) of climate change on the habitat use, distribution and abundance of animal populations.

Contact (birds)

Kevin Kuhlmann Clausen, Researcher, Department of Bioscience - Wildlife Ecology
Ib Krag Petersen, Senior Advisor, Department of Bioscience - Wildlife Ecology

Contact (mammals)

Morten Elmeros, Senior Advisor, Department of Bioscience - Wildlife Ecology

Social perspectives

Public meeting / Photo: Annika Skarðsá ©
Public meeting / Photo: Annika Skarðsá ©

All human interaction with nature always place in a social, cultural and political context. In order to resolve the challenges and conflicts arising from such interactions, it is necessary to understand these social, cultural and political perspectives. This applies as much to the ‘major’ challenges such those posed to sustainability, biodiversity conservation and by climate change, as to the very specific conflicts such as those posed by wolves and red deer. We therefore explore the societal aspects of nature management, not only at national and international level, but also at local level, to create a new understanding and develop new solutions.

Read about project "Wolf dialogue"

Contact

Hans Peter Hansen, Senior Researcher, Department of Bioscience - Wildlife Ecology

Avian and Animal Communication

Singing yellowhammer / Photo: Kent Olsen ©
Singing yellowhammer / Photo: Kent Olsen ©

Birds and mammals often use sounds to communicate with individuals of their own species. We can use these sounds to track the movement of species such as bats and night-active birds, and we are using these methods to improve our ability to monitor such species. The generation of sounds also enables us to locate precisely where individuals are and we have developed automated methods for sequentially logging such locations in time and space. In this way, we can follow individuals' use of their habitat and their location in relation to others of their species, as well as using these methods to contribute to the monitoring of different bat species in Denmark. We also studying the effects of noise created by humans on other organisms as well as trying to understand the evolution and function of bird song and parrot communication.

Contact (birds)

Thorsten Johannes Skovbjerg Balsby, Senior Researcher, Department of Bioscience - Wildlife Ecology

Contact (bats)

Morten Elmeros, Senior Advisor, Department of Bioscience - Wildlife Ecology