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Holly Kirk

I recently completed my DPhil in the Animal Behaviour Research Group at Oxford University, supported by Microsoft Research Cambridge as a Microsoft Research - University of Oxford Scholar. I am currently based in Melbourne, Australia and I am hunting for my next project. You can download a copy of my CV here

Fledgling shearwater


My thesis focuses on the behavioural ecology of pelagic seabirds both at sea and on the breeding colony. Recent advances in data logging technology mean we are able to build a comprehensive description of movement behaviour  throughout the migratory and reproductive phases of several seabird species. Most of this research is carried out on the burrow nesting Manx shearwater, Puffinus puffinus, based on Skomer Island (South Pembrokeshire), although our work takes us to several islands around the Irish Sea. We use three different bird-borne loggers (GPS, geolocators and TDRs) often in combination, to determine spatial and behavioural activity while an individual bird is away on foraging trips or during migration. In addition to my work on shearwaters, I have extensive tracking and ringing experience with other seabird species including: Atlantic puffin Fratercula arctica, common guillemot Uria aalge, razorbill Alca torda, lesser black-back gull Larus fuscus and black-legged kittiwake Rissa tridactyla.

Geolocator deployed on a Kittiwake

My main research interest is investigating the annual behavioural cycle of these birds, especially the relationship between different migratory strategies and breeding behaviour. Using both colony based and at-sea data I look for behavioural patterns within individuals, whole colonies and across different years. To do this we collect spatial and salt water immersion data from shearwaters using geolocators, like the one pictured right. Using pattern recognition methods derived from machine learning, I have identified different behaviours taking place during the migration and breeding phases of the Manx shearwater annual cycle. These techniques have been applied to data collected from five of the main UK breeding colonies.

Science Outreach and Communication

I am passionate about the communication of science (both mine and other peoples!) to a range of audiences, and I love giving talks. Below you can see me in action during the 2013 Oxford Science Slam, and 2015 FameLab regional final. In addition to my PhD work I also teach in the Oxford Department for Continuing Education on the PGC in Ecological Survey Techniques.


I gained my BSc (Hons) Zoology from Bristol University where my final year research project invevstigated the population dynamics of the flour mite, Acarus siro supervised by Professor Richard Wall. During the second year of my degree I obtained a SEP grant from the British Ecological Society to run a pilot study mapping pollination networks in Caledonian pine forest. In 2008 I attended a Tropical Biology Association field course in Amani, Tanzania. I have varied ecological surveying experience, including entomological and botanical surveys.


Fayet, Annette L., Robin Freeman, Akiko Shoji, Holly L. Kirk, Oliver Padget, Chris M. Perrins, and Tim Guilford. "Carry-over effects on the annual cycle of a migratory seabird: an experimental study." Journal of Animal Ecology (2016).

Shoji, Akiko, Ben Dean, Holly Kirk, Robin Freeman, Christopher M. Perrins, and Tim Guilford. "The diving behaviour of the Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus." Ibis 158, no. 3 (2016): 598-606.

Shoji, A., S. Aris-Brosou, E. Owen, M. Bolton, D. Boyle, A. Fayet, B. Dean, H. Kirk, R. Freeman, C. Perrins et al. "Foraging flexibility and search patterns are unlinked during breeding in a free-ranging seabird." Marine Biology 163 (2016).

Fayet, Annette L., Robin Freeman, Akiko Shoji, Dave Boyle, Holly L. Kirk, Ben J. Dean, Chris M. Perrins, and Tim Guilford. "Drivers and fitness consequences of dispersive migration in a pelagic seabird." Behavioral Ecology 27, no. 4 (2016): 1061-1072.

Dean, B., H. Kirk, A. Fayet, A. Shoji, R. Freeman, K. Leonard, C. M. Perrins, and T. Guilford. "Simultaneous multi-colony tracking of a pelagic seabird reveals cross-colony utilization of a shared foraging area." Marine Ecology Progress Series 538 (2015): 239-248.


Contact Details

Twitter: @HollyKirk
Address: Holly Kirk, Department of Zoology (E23a), South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PS