My main interest is in sense and behavioral ecology and I am strongly fascinated in animals’ capabilities that sometimes are to obscure to even imagine for us humans. I think that one of the most remarkable phenomena in nature is animal migration and how billions and billions of individuals are able to find their way. Big birds travelling in groups have the possibility to use information from the more experienced birds in the group, but how do small passerine migrants do? Weighing about 15 grams, fully exposed to weather and wind, most of them traveling alone by night and possibly even for the first time. How do these individuals manage to cross continents to get to their wintering grounds? I think that this is a fantastic and inspiring question.
I did my undergraduate studies at Stockholm University with the master thesis “The significance of geomagnetic cues for hormonal levels, fuel deposition and orientation in migratory European robins” in 2008 and I started my PhD studies in Lund during September 2009 with the project title “Orientation and magnetic compass calibration in migratory birds”.
It has been shown that birds are able to use different reference systems for orientation during migration: the Sun and the associated polarized light, stellar cues and the Earth’s magnetic field. Since cue availability changes with weather conditions, time of day and latitude, birds must calibrate the different compasses with respect to a common reference both before and during migration to avoid navigational errors. My work is concentrated in the hierarchy between the different compasses and especially in the calibration of the magnetic compass by the pattern of polarized light during sunrise and sunset.
I use several methods to investigate my questions, for example orientation cage experiments with different magnetic or polarized light cues, cue-conflict experiments and radio telemetry tracking of free flying migrants. I study both long and medium distance migratory passerines, e.g. Garden Warblers (Sylvia borin) and European Robins (Erithacus rubecula). Most of my field work is carried out in Falsterbo, the southernmost tip of Sweden, where a huge numbers of birds assemble every year before flying out over open sea on their way between breeding grounds and wintering areas.