Seabirds are the most threatened group of marine animals and their status has deteriorated rapidly over recent decades. The principal threats are posed by commercial fisheries and global human disturbance including invasive predators and plastic pollution. To cope with these pressures, seabird species specifically need to maintain high levels of genetic diversity, which is only achievable through a high capacity of dispersal among colonies. However, although most seabird species have the ability to travel long distances, several non-physical factors are associated with restricted movement and spatial structuring of genetic variation among colonies, such as differences in foraging strategies and breeding phenology. The aim of my research is to provide practical case studies to investigate those mechanisms in the context of maximising persistence and resilience of seabird populations.
During the first part of my Ph.D project, I used genetic data to elucidate population dynamics and connectivity between colonies of the IUCN listed Vulnerable Providence Petrel Pterodroma solandri, an oceanic seabird restricted to two breeding colonies off eastern Australia; Lord Howe Island and Phillip Island (adjacent to Norfolk Island). These two extant populations show different times of return to nesting sites (diurnal vs. nocturnal), which may influence gene flow between colonies. Quantifying whether this difference in behaviour reflected genetic difference was essential because a planned translocation event on Norfolk Island would potentially bring previously isolated populations back into contact, which may erode any genetic distinctiveness of the small colony established on Phillip Island (See Lombal et al. 2016 and Australian Wildlife Magazine – June 2017).
In the second part of my Ph.D. project, I used mitochondrial/nuclear DNA markers and stable isotopes to investigate genetic and foraging differentiation between colonies of Flesh-footed Shearwaters Ardenna carneipes, a migratory seabird species nesting in the southwest Pacific, southern Australia and the Indian Ocean. There was preliminary evidence that eastern and western colonies migrated to different non-breeding areas. Lack of dispersal between these two group of colonies may have important implications for conservation management of this species as local declines cannot be offset by immigration (see Lombal et al. 2017).
In my last chapter, I combined data from more than 80 genetic studies available in the literature to perform a meta-analysis of the factors affecting genetic structuring within seabird colonies (publication submitted to Biological Reviews).
During my previous research, I used molecular techniques to investigate genetic connectivity across the range of a North American leaf beetle Chrysomela aeneicollis at the University of Brussels (ULB; see Publication), and to conduct a phylogeny study of a green macroalgae occuring throughout Pacific and Indian Oceans (Halimeda sp.) at the Institute for Research and Development (IRD; see Report – French version) in New Caledonia.
Fascinated by the marine ecosystem, I have been involved in different research projects including the Cetus Project – Cetacean Monitoring in Micronesia – 2014, the 2013 season of observation of Humpback whales Megaloptera novaengliae with Operation Cetaces (see Field work), a mission of dugong Dugong dugong tracking by telemetry (see Informing dugong conservation 2015, James Cook University), and multiple projects involving seabird species (see Field work).
- PhD Candidate at the University of Tasmania, Australia (2014-present)
- Master Ecology of Aquatic Ecosystems at the University of Brussels, Belgium (2010)
- BSc Biology at the University of Brussels, Belgium (2008).
Lombal A, O’Dwyer J, Friesen V, Woehler E and Burridge CP (2019) Identifying mechanisms of genetic differentiation among populations in vagile species: historical factors dominate genetic differentiation in seabirds. Under review in Biological Reviews
Lombal A, Salis A, Mitchell K, Tennyson A, Shepherd L, Worthy T, Woehler E, Austin J and Burridge CP (2019) Using ancient DNA to quantify losses of genetic and species diversity in seabirds: a case study of Pterodroma petrels from a Pacific island. Under review in Biodiversity and Conservation
Lombal A, Wenner T, Lavers J, Austin J, Woehler E, Hutton I, Burridge CP (2017) Genetic divergence between colonies of Flesh-flooted Shearwater Ardenna carneipes exhibiting different foraging strategies . Conservation Genetics
Lombal A, Wenner T, Carlile N, Austin JJ, Woehler E, Priddel D, Burridge CP (2016) Population genetic and behavioural variation of the two remaining colonies of Providence petrel (Pterodroma solandri) . Conservation Genetics
Lombal A, Wenner T, Burridge CP (2015) Assessment of high-resolution melting (HRM) profiles as predictors of microsatellite variation – An example in Providence Petrel (Pterodroma solandri). Genes & Genomics
Dellicour S, Fearnley S, Lombal A, Heidl S, Dahlhoff EP, Rank NE and Mardulyn P (2014) Inferring the past and present connectivity across the range of a North American leaf beetle: combining ecological niche modeling and a geographically explicit model of coalescence. Evolution
Awards & Funding
- World Seabird Union – SCICOMM prize – World Seabird Twitter Conference (WSTC5, 2019) US$200
- Pacific Seabird Group – Travel Award (2018) US$1,000
- Australasian Seabird Group – Student Presentation Award – World Seabird Twitter Conference (WSTC4, 2018) AU$100
- Australian Bird Study Association – Fund For Avian Research (2017) AU$1,500
- Australian Wildlife Society – University Student Grant (2016) AU$2,000
- School of Biological Science, UTAS – Conference Travel Support (2016) AU$1,500
- Pennicott Foundation Inc. – Research Grant (2016) AU$4,000
- Ecological Society of Australia – Student Travel Grant (2015) AU$500
- Birdlife Australia – Birdlife Stuart Leslie Travel Award (2015) AU$1,500
- Australian Postgraduate Awards – International scholarship (2014) AU$25,849 p/a
- European Commission – Leonardo Da Vinci Scholarship (2012) AU$14,000
- Presentations at the 3rd, 4th and 5th World Seabird Twitter Conferences (2017-19)
- Talk at the 45th Pacific Seabird Group Meeting (PSG) 2018 (Mexico)
- Talk at the Australasian Evolution Society and Phylomania meeting 2017 (Hobart)
- Talk at the 6th International Albatross and Petrel Conference (IAPC6) 2016 (Barcelona)
- Talk at the Island Arks Symposium IV (Island Arks) 2016 (Norfolk Island)
- Talk at the Pacific Seabird Group 43rd Annual Meeting (PSG) 2016 (Hawaii)
- Talk at the 8th Australasian Ornithological Conference (AOC) 2015 (Adelaide)
- Poster presentation at the 2015 Annual Conference of the Ecological Society of Australia (ESA) (Adelaide)
- Poster presentation at the 9th Graduate Research Conference (UTAS) 2015 (Hobart)
Workshops, Lab techniques & General training
- Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, University of Adelaide
Advanced Bioinformatics workshop for early career researchers: Introduction to Next Generation Sequencing Technologies (2015)
- Isotope Ratio Mass Spectometry – Central Science Laboratory, University of Tasmania Introduction to Stable Isotope Analyses (2016)
- The European Union for Bird Ringing (EURING) –
Royal Belgium Institute of Natural Sciences Scientific Collaborator-Ringer (training period of four years, started in May 2019; See webpage)
- Biological Control and Spatial Ecology, University of Brussels
Introduction of R to undergraduate students (2011)
- Abbott’s boobies and Christmas Island frigatebirds – Christmas Island – 2016
- Australasian Gannets – Portland & Queenscliff, Victoria – 2016
- Flesh-footed shearwaters – Lord Howe Island, New South Wales – 2015
- Short-tailed shearwaters – Wedge Island, South Tasmania – 2015
- Humpback whales – Prony, South New-Caledonia – 2013
Service to the community
- Reviewer for Journal of Ornithology; Ecology Movement; Molecular Ecology & Frontiers of Biogeography
- Volunteering Bettongs – Richmond, Tasmania – 2015
- Bird banding session – Waterworks reserve, Tasmania – 2017
- Judging at the UTAS Science Investigation Awards 2015 (Hobart)
- Scientific jury – 28th annual Conference of the European Cetacean Society (ECS) 2014 (Belgium)
- Australian Marine Sciences Association (AMSA) – General committee member, in charge of communication of AMSA Tasmania Awards 2015, 2016 & 2017.
- Birdlife Tasmania Shorebird surveys around Tasmania’s East Coast (see Report and Shorebird surveys – May Field 2015 ) – Talk at the General Meeting 2016.
- The Pacific Seabird Group (PSG) – Talk at the 43rd (2016) & 45th (2018) PSG Meetings & Report in Pacific Seabirds publication 2015 – Vol 42 p.21.
- The Oceanographic Society (TOS)
- National Geographic – Anicee Lombal – “Your Shot”