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Behavioural and Evolutionary Ecology

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Keith McMahon TCD

photo of Aoibheann

Aoibheann Gaughran

PhD student

Aoibheann Gaughran

Research Interests

My PhD research seeks to better understand the behavioural ecology of the badger, Meles meles, which is a protected species in Ireland. Badgers are of particular interest because they act as a wildlife reservoir of tuberculosis (TB), a disease that can be transmitted to cattle. As part of the management strategy for TB in cattle, the Department of Agriculture, Food and The Marine (DAFM) are conducting research into effective vaccination of badgers against the disease.

The success of any management strategy is dependent on understanding the behavioural ecology of the animals involved. In particular, their movements within the environment play an important role in disease transmission. To this end an ambitious research project by the DAFM, National Parks and Wildlife Service and Trinity College Dublin commenced in 2010 which uses satellite tracking to record the nightly movements of over 50 badgers in an agricultural area through which a major road realignment is taking place.

My research will involve analysing the GPS data and conducting fieldwork to investigate three broad areas:-

1. Nightly foraging behaviour of badgers, specifically to investigate site preferences i.e. why a badger might prefer to forage in one field, but avoid the one next to it?
2. The timing and patterns of dispersal in badgers - when does it happen, are their differences between the sexes, how might these differences relate to inbreeding avoidance?
3. Territorial ranging behaviour before, during and after the road realignment - does a disturbance of this magnitude have a perturbation effect on the social groups adjacent to it?

I anticipate that the improved understanding of badger ecology resulting from these analyses will be used to inform more effective TB management strategies including farm biosecurity and badger vaccination delivery.


Contact: Zoology Building, School of Natural Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland

Last updated 9 June 2015 by