Rob Harcourt

Rob Harcourt
Macquarie University · School of Natural Sciences

Phd

About

396
Publications
138,981
Reads
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10,914
Citations
Introduction
My interests revolve around the importance of individual variation in behaviour to foraging, communication, mating tactics and life experience of marine predators. My research focuses on individual differences and evolutionary mechanisms, combining observation and experimental manipulation of behaviour in the field with genetic methods and biologging. Since 2006 I have led the Australian Integrated Marine Observing System Animal Tracking facility http://imos.org.au/aatams.html.
Additional affiliations
January 2006 - present
February 2005 - December 2014
Université Paris-Sud 11
Position
  • collaborator
Description
  • Long-term collaboration with Charrier and Aubin
January 1997 - December 2014
Macquarie University
Position
  • Professor (Full)

Publications

Publications (396)
Article
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It is a golden age for animal movement studies and so an opportune time to assess priorities for future work. We assembled 40 experts to identify key questions in this field, focussing on marine megafauna, which include a broad range of birds, mammals, reptiles, and fish. Research on these taxa has both underpinned many of the recent technical deve...
Article
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Fidelity to migratory destinations is an important driver of connectivity in marine and avian species. Here we assess the role of maternally directed learning of migratory habitats, or migratory culture, on the population structure of the endangered Australian and New Zealand southern right whale. Using DNA profiles, comprising mitochondrial DNA (m...
Article
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The distribution and interactions of aquatic organisms across space and time structure our marine, freshwater, and estuarine ecosystems. Over the past decade, technological advances in telemetry have transformed our ability to observe aquatic animal behavior and movement. These advances are now providing unprecedented ecological insights by connect...
Article
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The world's oceans are undergoing rapid, regionally specific warming. Strengthening western boundary currents play a role in this phenomenon, with sea surface temperatures (SST) in their paths rising faster than the global average. To understand how dynamic oceanography influences food availability in these ocean warming "hotspots", we use a novel...
Article
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Animal-borne telemetry has revolutionised our ability to study animal movement, species physiology, demography and social structures, changing environments and the threats that animals are experiencing. While there will always be a need for basic ecological research and discovery, the current conservation crisis demands we look more pragmatically a...
Article
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Teeth are an integral component of feeding ecology with a clear link between tooth morphology and diet, as without suitable dentition prey cannot be captured nor broken down for consumption. Bull sharks Carcharhinus leucas undergo an ontogenetic niche shift from freshwater to marine habitats, which raises the question: does tooth morphology change...
Article
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Communication is the process by which one emitter conveys information to one or several receivers to induce a response (behavioral or physiological) by the receiver. Communication plays a major role in various biological functions and may involve signals and cues from different sensory modalities. Traditionally, investigations of animal communicati...
Article
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RATIONALE The use of sulfur isotopes to study trophic ecology in marine ecosystems has increased in the last decade. Unlike other commonly used isotopes (e.g., carbon), sulfur can better discriminate benthic and pelagic productivity. However, how lipid extraction affects sulfur isotopic values has not been assessed, despite its frequent use to remo...
Preprint
Ecological theory predicts niche partitioning between high level predators living in sympatry as a strategy to minimise the selective pressure of competition. Accordingly, male Australian fur seals Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus and New Zealand fur seals A. forsteri that live in sympatry should partition their broad niches (in habitat and trophic...
Article
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Drones have become popular with the general public for viewing and filming marine life. One amateur enthusiast platform, DroneSharkApp, films marine life in the waters off Sydney, Australia year-round and posts their observations on social media. The drone observations include the behaviours of a variety of coastal marine wildlife species, includin...
Article
Climate change and urbanization of coastal areas are impacting estuarine habitats globally. While these regions are important for the early-life development of many aquatic species, links between habitat use and foraging ecology are not well known. Thus, it is essential to understand the importance of threatened habitats for animals inhabiting estu...
Article
Antarctic polynyas are persistent open water areas which enable early and large seasonal phytoplankton blooms. This high primary productivity, boosted by iron supply from coastal glaciers, attracts organisms from all trophic levels to form a rich and diverse community. How the ecological benefit of polynya productivity is translated to the highest...
Article
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Globally, marine animal distributions are shifting in response to a changing climate. These shifts are usually considered at the species level, but individuals are likely to differ in how they respond to the changing conditions. Here, we investigate how movement behaviour and, therefore, redistribution, would differ by sex and maturation class in a...
Article
Animals may use long-distance foraging trips to capitalize on spatiotemporal variation in food availability , allowing individuals to maximize resource gain from foraging effort. This is particularly important for dimorphic species with polygynous mating where males face strong selection pressures to attain large size and access to reproductive fem...
Article
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Greater Sydney is the largest coastal city in Australia and is where bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) are present every summer and autumn. A decade of acoustic telemetry data was used to identify drivers of space use for bull sharks and their potential prey, according to standardised 6-h intervals using dynamic Brownian bridge movement models. Inf...
Article
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Marine animals equipped with biological and physical electronic sensors have produced long-term data streams on key marine environmental variables, hydrography, animal behavior and ecology. These data are an essential component of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS). The Animal Borne Ocean Sensors (AniBOS) network aims to coordinate the long-t...
Article
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Conservation measures often result in a “wicked problem,” i.e., a complex problem with conflicting aims and no clear or straightforward resolution without severe adverse effects on one or more parties. Here we discuss a novel approach to an ongoing problem, in which actions to reduce risk to humans, involve lethal control of otherwise protected spe...
Article
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The relative importance of intrinsic and extrinsic determinants of animal foraging is often difficult to quantify. The most southerly breeding mammal, the Weddell seal, remains in the Antarctic pack-ice year-round. We compared Weddell seals tagged at three geographically and hydrographically distinct locations in East Antarctica (Prydz Bay, Terre A...
Article
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Monitoring seabird diet can provide insights into marine ecosystems that are logistically difficult or costly to observe with traditional fisheries survey methods. Using digital photography, we described the diet of greater crested terns ( Thalasseus bergii ) breeding on Montague Island (36°15′ S, 150°13′ E), a colony located in an oceanographicall...
Article
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Subsea infrastructure of the oil and gas industry attracts commercial fish species as well as megafauna including sea lions, turtles, sharks and whales. Potential impacts of this attraction, whether positive or negative, are unknown. As part of a pilot study, we deployed acoustic telemetry equipment around offshore infrastructure to assess its effe...
Article
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Land transformation for anthropogenic use is the leading cause of species decline globally. However, few species are able to succeed in anthropogenically disturbed environments. African clawless otters (Aonyx capensis) occur in a wide variety of habitats, and thus are good model species to investigate animal adaptation to anthropogenic environments...
Article
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Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) production supplies the deep limb of the global overturning circulation and ventilates the deep ocean. While the Weddell and Ross Seas are recognised as key sites for AABW production, additional sources have been discovered in coastal polynya regions around East Antarctica, most recently at Vincennes Bay. Vincennes Bay...
Article
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Two subspecies of blue whale occur in Australian waters, (1) the pygmy blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda) and (2) the Antarctic blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus intermedia). Understanding blue whale presence in Australian waters is critical to ensuring Australia’s protection of these marine mammals as both subspecies were heavily exploi...
Article
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106,107 ✉ replying to A. V. Harry & J. M. Braccini Nature https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03463-w (2021) Our global analysis 1 estimated the overlap and fishing exposure risk (FEI) using the space use of satellite-tracked sharks and longline fishing effort monitored by the automatic identification system (AIS). In the accompanying Comment, Harry...
Article
This article is a response to Murua et al.'s Matters Arising article in Nature, "Shark mortality cannot be assessed by fishery overlap alone," which arose from arising from N. Queiroz et al. Nature https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-019-1444-4 (2019).
Article
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ABSTRACT: As large carnivores recover from over-exploitation, managers often lack evidence-based information on species habitat requirements and the efficacy of management practices, particularly where species repopulate areas from which they have long been extirpated. We investigated the movement and habitat use by 2 semi-aquatic carnivores (Austr...
Article
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Individual specialization, which describes whether populations are comprised of dietary generalists or specialists, has profound ecological and evolutionary implications. However, few studies have quantified individual specialization within and between sympatric species that are functionally similar but have different foraging modes. We assessed th...
Article
Monitoring animals with electronic tags is an increasingly important tool for fundamental and applied ecological research. Based on the size of the system under study, the ability to recapture the animal, and research medium (e.g., aerial, freshwater, saltwater, terrestrial), tags selected may either log data in memory (bio-logging), transmit it to...
Chapter
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The most energetically costly phases of female reproduction in placental mammals are gestation and lactation. For the young, the success of this relationship is based on obtaining as much maternal care as they can take in, even if this may result in a cost to future reproductive success of the mother. On the other hand, the mother should retain suf...
Chapter
Most extant fur seal species have discrete breeding ranges, and it is assumed that prior to sealing they were even more separate. However, post sealing most populations have made dramatic recoveries and in the process of so doing have recolonized their previous ranges and possibly further afield. At three locations, Crozet Is., Macquarie Is. and Ma...
Article
Context: It is widely recognised that red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) are abundant within urban areas; however, it is difficult to apply lethal control measures using poison baits in cities because of concerns about the safety of domestic pets, particularly dogs (Canis familiaris). Aims: We tested canid pest ejectors (CPEs) as a potential method of fox...
Article
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The recovery of overexploited populations is likely to reveal behaviours that may have been present prior to harvest but are only now reappearing as the population size increases. The east Australian humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) population (group V, stock E1) has recovered well from past exploitation and is now estimated to be close to t...
Article
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The global lockdown to mitigate COVID-19 pandemic health risks has altered human interactions with nature. Here, we report immediate impacts of changes in human activities on wildlife and environmental threats during the early lockdown months of 2020, based on 877 qualitative reports and 332 quantitative assessments from 89 different studies. Hundr...
Article
Delineation of population structure (i.e. stocks) is crucial to successfully manage exploited species and to address conservation concerns for threatened species. Fish migration and associated movements are key mechanisms through which discrete populations mix and are thus important determinants of population structure. Detailed information on fish...
Article
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Rapid and regionally contrasting climate changes have been observed around Antarctica. However, our understanding of the impact of these changes on ecosystems remains limited, and there is an urgent need to better identify habitats of Antarctic species. The Weddell seal ( Leptonychotes weddellii ) is a circumpolar mesopredator and an indicative spe...
Article
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Oceanic islands are productive ecosystems, and so have higher densities of many marine predators. We investigated the dynamics of elasmobranch and teleost predators in coastal waters off Réunion Island, Indian Ocean, using fisheries-independent data from a preventative shark fishing program from January 2014 to December 2019. We developed a moonlig...
Article
Genetic bottlenecks can reduce effective population sizes (Ne), increase the rate at which genetic variation is lost via drift, increase the frequency of deleterious mutations and thereby accentuate inbreeding risk and lower evolutionary potential. Here, we tested for the presence of a genetic bottleneck in the endangered Australian sea lion (Neoph...
Article
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Despite the low chance of a person being bitten by a shark, there are serious associated costs. Electronic deterrents are currently the only types of personal deterrent with empirical evidence of a substantial reduction in the probability of being bitten by a shark. We aimed to predict the number of people who could potentially avoid being bitten b...
Article
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Marine mammals can play important ecological roles in aquatic ecosystems, and their presence can be key to community structure and function. Consequently, marine mammals are often considered indicators of ecosystem health and flagship species. Yet, historical population declines caused by exploitation, and additional current threats, such as climat...
Article
COVID-19 restrictions have led to an unprecedented global hiatus in anthropogenic activities, providing a unique opportunity to assess human impact on biological systems. Here, we describe how a national network of acoustic tracking receivers can be leveraged to assess the effects of human activity on animal movement and space use during such globa...
Article
Bio‐logging data obtained by tagging animals is key to addressing global conservation challenges. However, the many thousands of existing bio‐logging datasets are not easily discoverable, universally comparable, nor readily accessible through existing repositories and across platforms. This slows down ecological research and effective management. A...
Preprint
Full-text available
Variation in the diet of marine predators such as seabirds can be used to track environmentally-driven changes in ocean ecosystems. However, studies of predator diet must account for intrinsic influences on prey selection, such as changing nutritional requirements during breeding. Using digital photography, we investigated how the type and size of...
Article
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Partitioning resources is a key mechanism for avoiding intraspecific competition and maximizing individual energy gain. However, in sexually dimorphic species it is difficult to discern if partitioning is due to competition or the different resource needs of morphologically distinct individuals. In the highly dimorphic southern elephant seal, there...
Article
Stable isotopes are often used to determine the ecological role of different age classes of animals, but particularly for young animals this approach may be compromised. During gestation and or incubation body tissues of the young are derived directly from the mother. In neonates or post hatching, there is a period of transformation as the young gr...
Book
This book is focused on the marine mammalian groups the Otariidae and the Odobenidae, otherwise known as fur seals, sea lions and the walrus. In 30 chapters, more than 60 authors from 30 institutions and 13 nationalities, discuss a broad suite of topics from maternal care and mating behavior, through play, cognition and personality, to adaptation t...
Article
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In South Australia, discrete populations of bottlenose dolphins inhabit two large gulfs, where key threats and population estimates have been identified. Climate change, habitat disturbance (shipping and noise pollution), fishery interactions and epizootic events have been identified as the key threats facing these populations. The Population Conse...
Article
1. Understanding the factors driving population structure in marine mammals is needed to evaluate the impacts of previous exploitation, current anthropogenic threats, conservation status, and success of population recovery efforts. 2. Sperm whales are characterized by a worldwide distribution, low genetic diversity, complex patterns of social and g...
Article
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1. Acoustic telemetry enables spatial ecologists to collect movement data from a variety of aquatic species. In estuaries and rivers, accounting for the complex shape of water bodies is challenging. Current methods for analysing utilization distributions (UDs) are restricted to using the locations of receivers where animals have been detected, whic...
Article
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Identifying factors influencing survivorship is key to understanding population persistence. Although satellite telemetry is a powerful tool for studying remote animal ecology and behaviour it is rarely used for demographic studies because distinguishing the death of the animal (individual mortality) from failure of the tag (mechanical tag failure)...
Article
Changes in the foraging environment and at-sea distribution of southern elephant seals from Kerguelen Islands were investigated over a decade (2004–2018) using tracking, weaning mass, and blood δ ¹³ C values. Females showed either a sub-Antarctic or an Antarctic foraging strategy, and no significant shift in their at-sea distribution was detected b...
Article
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Background: State-space models are important tools for quality control and analysis of error-prone animal movement data. The near real-time (within 24 h) capability of the Argos satellite system can aid dynamic ocean management of human activities by informing when animals enter wind farms, shipping lanes, and other intensive use zones. This capab...
Article
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With urban encroachment on wild landscapes accelerating globally, there is an urgent need to understand how wildlife is adapting to anthropogenic change. We compared the behaviour of the invasive red fox (Vulpes vulpes) at eight urban and eight peri-urban areas of Sydney, Australia. We observed fox behaviour around a lure and compared fox activity...