Marwa Kavelaars

Marwa Kavelaars


Campus Drie Eiken
Universiteitsplein 1
2610 Wilrijk, BEL

Keywords: parental care, GPS tracking, foraging strategies, reproductive investment, environmental variation, lesser black-backed gulls

Parental care increases offspring survival, but comes at a cost for the parents. Parents are therefore presented with a trade-off between increased investment in current offspring and resource allocation into self-maintenance and future reproductive success. To optimise their reproductive decisions, parents have to take numerous factors into account that relate to their own intrinsic capacity as well as to aspects of their social and ecological environment.

With my research I aim to increase our understanding of

  1. how reproductive decisions are related to environmental variation in food availability;
  2. how individual decisions depend on the partner and how efficient within-pair coordination and equality in reproductive investment is achieved to ultimately maximise reproductive success;
  3. how intrinsic changes, such as occur in the context of senescence, influence reproductive strategies - via changes in foraging performance and residual reproductive value.

I study this in a wild population of individually marked Lesser black-backed gulls, a long-lived, monogamous seabird species with a high level of inter-individual variation in resource use. Using a combination of GPS tracking, stable isotope analysis and behavioural observations I try to unravel the different environmental, social and intrinsic factors impinging on parental strategies.




Kavelaars, MM, Lens L, Müller W. (2019) Sharing the burden: on the division of parental care and vocalizations during incubation. Behav. Ecol. doi:10.1093/beheco/arz049


Kavelaars MM, Stienen EWM, Matheve H, Buijs RJ, Lens L, Müller W. (2018) GPS tracking during parental care does not affect early offspring development in lesser black-backed gulls. Mar. Biol. 165(5): 87. doi:10.1007/s00227-018-3347-6.

Baert JM, Stienen EWM, Heylen B, Kavelaars MM, Buys R-J, Shamoun-Baranes J, Lens L, Müller W. (2018) High-resolution GPS tracking reveals sex differences in migratory behaviour and stopover habitat use in the Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus. Sci. Rep.:1–11. doi:10.1038/s41598-018-23605-x.

Padget O, Bond SL, Kavelaars MM, van Loon E, Bolton M, Fayet AL, Syposz M, Roberts S, Guilford T (2018) In Situ Clock Shift Reveals that the Sun Compass Contributes to Orientation in a Pelagic Seabird. Curr Biol 1–5. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.11.062


Oudman T, Bijleveld AI, Kavelaars MM, Dekinga A, Cluderay J, Piersma T, van Gils JA (2016) Diet preferences as the cause of individual differences rather than the consequence. J Anim Ecol 85:1378–1388. doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.12549

Stienen EWM, Desmet P, Aelterman B, Courtens W, Feys S, Vanermen N, Verstraete H, Van de Walle M, Deneudt K, Hernandez F, Houthoofdt R, Vanhoorne B, Bouten W, Buijs R-J, Kavelaars MM, Müller W, Herman D, Matheve H, Sotillo A, Lens L (2016) GPS tracking data of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls breeding at the southern North Sea coast. Zookeys 555:115–124. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.555.6173


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