Post Doctoral Albatross Project Imagery Analyst
I am the postdoctoral researcher on the “Albatrosses From Space” project at the British Antarctic Survey to monitor great albatrosses from space using very high-resolution satellite imagery. For this project, I am developing an online citizen science campaign to count breeding pairs of Wandering albatrosses on South Georgia. I will also determine whether critically endangered Tristan Albatrosses on Gough Island can be detected and counted from space. Albatross counts will be used to develop an automated, standardised and efficient monitoring protocol for future satellite surveys, greatly improving our understanding of archipelago-wide population dynamics.
I completed my PhD at the University of New South Wales on the ecology of endangered and extinct marsupial carnivores. I have since completed three postdoctoral positions in Australia (University of New England) and the UK (Sheffield University and Royal Holloway University of London) on avian eggshell form and function. I was the unit co-ordinator of Principles of Zoology at the University of New England, and have co-supervised one PhD and two Honours students.
I am a functional ecologist and evolutionary biologist and am passionate about species conservation. A key theme of my research is understanding what drives variation in animal behaviour, physiology and morphology across species, and how species respond to environmental change.
My research spans across biomechanics, biomaterials, evolutionary biology, functional morphology, spatial analysis and physiology. I currently monitor breeding populations of great albatrosses on remote islands using super high-resolution satellites and citizen science. Our team are working towards making this method applicable at an ocean-wide scale for albatrosses and other large marine species.
I also work closely with curators, collections staff, postgraduate students and fellow scientists worldwide to investigate and explain the diversity and evolution of a range of biological structures. I collect and analyse a variety of large datasets to explore the diversity of numerous living organisms and how they could respond to challenges, such as predators and climate change.
I have a deep interest in the relationship between the structure and function of unique morphological traits. My previous research projects answer a range of fascinating questions, including “Why do some marine seabirds lay cone-shaped eggs”, “Were Neanderthals capable of speech”, “Were the jaws of the extinct Tasmanian tiger too weak to kill sheep”, and “Can eggshell surface properties predict a species nest environment”?
2021-present: Postdoctoral researcher in Ecosystems team, British Antarctic Survey, UK
2019-2021: Postdoctoral researcher in Avian Eggshell Ecology, Animal Behaviour and Physiology Research group, Royal Holloway University of London, UK
2016-2018: Postdoctoral researcher in Avian Eggshell Ecology, Tim R Birkhead lab, University of Sheffield, UK
2014-2016: Research assistant, Function, Ecology and Anatomy Research (FEAR) lab, University of New England, Australia
2014-2015: Postdoctoral researcher, Function, Ecology and Anatomy Research (FEAR) lab, University of New England, Australia
2014: Unit coordinator for Principles for Zoology, University of New England, Australia
2013: Field assistant, Greencollar Consulting Solutions, Australia
2012: Course demonstrator for Vertebrate Zoology, University of New South Wales, Australia
2009-2010: Course demonstrator for Animal Behaviour, University of New South Wales, Australia
2009: Research assistant, Mammal lab, University of New South Wales, Australia
2008: Educational officer, Sydney Aquarium and Wildlife Park, Australia
2006-2007: Research Assistant, School of Computing and Mathematics, Western Sydney University, Australia
2009-2013: PhD Biological Sciences, University of New South Wales, Australia. Dissertation: “Who’s on the menu: marsupial carnivore feeding ecology and extinction risk”.
2008: BSc (Honours) Biological Sciences, 1st Class, Macquarie University, Australia. Dissertation: “Vocal discrimination in mate guarding male Australian sea lions”.
2005-2007: BSc (Advanced Science) Biological Sciences, Western Sydney University, Australia. Environmental Science (major); Microbiology (major); Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (sub-major).
British Ornithologists’ Union
Society of Experimental Biology
Attard MRG, Portugal SJ (In review) Global diversity and adaptations of avian eggshell thickness. Ibis.
van Heteren AH, Tsang LR, Sansalone G, Ross P, Ledogar JA, Attard MRG, Sustaita D, Clausen P, Scofield P, Wroe S (2021) New Zealand’s extinct giant raptor (Harpagornis moorei) killed like an eagle, ate like a condor. Proceedings of Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2021.1913
Attard MRG, Lewis A, Wroe S, Hughs C, Rogers R (2021). Whisker growth in Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) and applications for stable isotope studies. Ecosphere. doi: 10.1002/ecs2.3846
Attard MRG, Bowen J, Corado R, Hall L, Dorey R, Portugal SJ (2021) Ecological drivers of eggshell wettability in birds. Journal of the Royal Society Interface. 18: 20210488. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2021.0488
Attard MRG and Portugal SJ (2021) Climate variability and parent nesting strategies influence gas exchange across avian eggshells. Proceedings of Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 288: 20210823. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2021.0823
Birkhead T, Russell D, Garbout A, Attard MRG, Thompson J, Jackson D (2020) New insights from old eggs – the shape and thickness of Great Auk Pinguinus impennis eggs. Ibis 162(4):1345-1354. doi: 10.1111/ibi.12820.
Tsang LR, Sansalone G, Wilson LAB, Attard MRG, Ledogar J, Wroe S (2019). Raptor talon shape and biomechanical performance are controlled by relative prey size but not by allometry. Scientific Reports. 9: 7076. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-43654-0
Birkhead TRB, Attard MRG, Pilastro A (2019) Subtle egg-membrane structures in birds’ eggs. Molecular Reproduction and Development. 86(4): 353-353. doi: 10.1002/mrd.23103
Attard MRG, Sherratt E, Mcdonald P, Gracia M, Wroe S (2018) A new, three-dimensional geometric morphometric approach to assess egg shape variation. PeerJ. 6: e5052. doi: 10.7717/peerj.5052
Attard MRG, Medina I, Langmore N, Sherratt E (2017) Egg shape mimicry in parasitic cuckoos, Journal of Evolutionary Biology. 7(2): e31704. doi: 10.1111/jeb.13176
Attard MRG, Wilson LAB, Worthy TH, Scofield P, Johnston P, Parr WCH, Wroe S (2016) Moa diet fits the bill: virtual reconstruction incorporating mummified remains and prediction of biomechanical performance in avian giants. Proceedings of Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 283(1822). doi: 10.1098/rspb.2015.2043
Attard MRG, Parr W, Archer M, Hand S, Rogers TL, Wroe S (2014) Virtual reconstruction and prediction of diet of the Australian mid Cenozoic thylacinid, Nimbacinus dicksoni (Thylacinidae, Marsupialia). PLOS ONE. 9 (4), e93088. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0093088.g005
Anastasio R, Wroe S, Tuniz C, Arensburge B, Mancini L, Cesana DT, Dreossi D, Ravichandiran M, Attard MRG, Parr W, Agur A (2013) Micro-Biomechanics of the Kebara 2 Hyoid and Its Implications for Speech in Neanderthals. PLOS ONE. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0082261
Attard MRG, Chamoli U, Ferrara T, Rogers TL, Wroe S (2011) Skull mechanics and implications for feeding behaviour in a large marsupial carnivore guild: the thylacine, Tasmanian devil and spotted-tailed quoll. Journal of Zoology, 285 (4); 292-300. doi: 10.1111.j.1469-7998.2011.00844.x
Attard MRG, Pitcher BJ, Charrier I, Ahonen H, Harcourt RG (2010) Vocal discrimination in mate guarding male Australian sea lions: Familiarity Breeds Contempt, Ethology, 116; 1-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1439-0310.2010.01786.x
Attard MRG and Wroe S (expected publication date: June 2022) Thylacine Prey Size in “History and Mystery of the Thylacine”. The Thylacine Chronicles. Editor: Branden Holmes. CSIRO Publishing.
Monitoring albatrosses using very high resolution satellites and citizen science
Monitoring the world’s threatened albatross species is challenging because of their remote nesting locations, making ground or aerial surveys expensive, infrequent and often incomplete. In this project funded by Darwin Plus, we will launch a citizen science campaign, using 31-cm resolution satellite imagery to count wandering albatrosses on South Georgia and Tristan albatrosses on Gough Island directly from space. Counts will be used to develop an automated, standardised and efficient monitoring protocol for future satellite surveys, greatly improving our understanding of archipelago-wide population dynamics.
- Postdoctoral Analyst Project Image Analyst, Ecosystems Team