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Holly Kirk

I'm a D.Phil. student in the Animal Behaviour Research Group at Oxford University, supported by Microsoft Research Cambridge as a Microsoft Research - University of Oxford Scholar.

Me with a Razorbill chick


My project 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.

There are two complimentary methods of data collection for this project:


Colony based data- A purpose built network of burrow sensors designed to log detailed individual activity routinely at the nest (see Autonomous Monitoring of Vulnerable Habitats for more information).


At-sea data - 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.

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 below.

Geolocator deployed on a Kittiwake

Fledgling shearwater


I gained my BSc (Hons) Zoology from Bristol University where my final year research project was investigating 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 Bristish Ecological Society to run a pilot study mapping pollination networks in Caledonian pine forest. I also attended a Tropical Biology Association field course in Amani, Tanzania before starting my PhD.


Freeman, Robin, Ben Dean, Holly Kirk, Kerry Leonard, Richard A. Phillips, Chris M. Perrins, and Tim Guilford. "Predictive ethoinformatics reveals the complex migratory behaviour of a pelagic seabird, the Manx Shearwater." Journal of the Royal Society, Interface / the Royal Society 10, no. 84 (2013): 20130279.

Dean, B. J., R. Freeman, H. Kirk, K. Leonard, R. A. Phillips, C. M. Perrins, and T. Guilford. "Behavioural mapping of a pelagic seabird: combining multiple sensors and a hidden Markov model reveals the distribution of at-sea behaviour." Journal of the Royal Society Interface FirstCite Online (2012).

Guilford, T., R. Freeman, D. Boyle, Dean B.J., H. Kirk, R. A. Phillips, and C. M. Perrins. "A dispersive migration in the Atlantic Puffin and its implications for migratory navigation." PLoS One (2011).


Contact Details

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