Leonard Lab

Dr. Rob Ronconi

Killam post-doctoral fellow and NSERC post-doctoral fellow, Dalhousie University

rronconi 'at' dal.ca

Fax: (902) 494-3736

The ocean is a seemingly homogeneous and vast landscape, yet, in reality, oceanic habitats are highly dynamic and patchy mosaics in which marine animals eke out their existence in complex ways.   While I was a post-doc in the Leonard lab, my research focused on linkages between marine predators (particularly seabirds) and ocean habitats.  From 2003-2008, my PhD work investigated critical habitats of marbled murrelets (Brachyramphus marmoratus), a threatened species in coastal British Columbia.  Since 2005, along with the Grand Manan Whale and Seabird Research Station, we have been studying the foraging ecology, energetics, habitat selection, and migratory behaviour of shearwaters in Atlantic Canada.  This work is integrating a banding program, dietary analysis (stable isotopes and fatty acids), biochemical analysis (lipids, corticosterone, hematology), and satellite tracking of movements and migrations.  Ultimately, my objective is to apply these studies towards the conservation and management of marine animals (e.g. design of Marine Protected Areas, oil spill response, mitigation of fisheries bycatch).



Ph.D.  Biology (2008) University of Victoria. Patterns and Processes of Marine Habitat Selection: Foraging Ecology, Competition and Coexistence among Coastal Seabirds.  Advisor: Dr. Alan E. Burger

B.Sc.  Environmental and Conservation Science (2000) University of Alberta


Research Skills and Experience

Telemetry studies (satellite and VHF tags); habitat selection modeling; spatial analyses (GIS, remote sensing, kernel density analysis, spatial autocorelation, etc.); vessel-based surveys; distance sampling; colony surveys; observational studies; dietary analyses (stable isotopes, fatty acids); and biochemical analysis (lipids, corticosterone, hematology)


Funding for Shearwater Research

  • Killam Trusts (post-doctoral fellowship)
  • NSERC (post-doctoral fellowship)
  • Grand Manan Whale and Seabird Research Station
  • New Brunswick Wildlife Trust Fund
  • Environment Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund
  • National Geographic
  • New Brunswick Environmental Trust Fund
  • Baillie Fund for Bird Research and Preservation
  • North Star Science and Technology
  • Ocean Fund (Royal Caribbean Cruise Line)
  • Bird Life International
  • Canadian Wildlife Service
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service



  1. Ronconi, R.A. & A.E. Burger (in press) Foraging space as a limited resource: inter- and intraspecific competition among sympatric pursuit-diving seabirds. Canadian Journal of Zoology

  2. Robson, B., T. Glass, N. Glass, J. Glass, J. Green, C. Repetto, G. Rodgers, R.A. Ronconi, P.G. Ryan. G. Swain & R.J. Cuthbert (in press) Revised population estimate and trends for the endangered Northern Rockhopper Penguin Eudyptes moseleyi at Tristan da Cunha. Bird Conservation International

  3. Ryan, P.G. & R.A. Ronconi (in press) Continued increase in numbers of Spectacled Petrels Procellaria conspicillata. Antarctic Science

  4. Ryan, P.G., N. Glass & R.A. Ronconi (2011) The plants and birds of Stoltenhoff and Alex Islands, Tristan da Cunha. Polar Record 47:86-89

  5. Ronconi, R. A, H. N. Koopman, C. A. E. McKinstry, S. N. P. Wong & A. J. Westgate (2010) Inter-annual variability in diet of non-breeding pelagic seabirds Puffinus spp. at migratory staging areas: evidence from stable isotopes and fatty acids. Marine Ecology Progress Series 419:267-282

  6. Ronconi, R. A., P. G. Ryan & Y. Ropert-Coudert (2010) Diving of Great Shearwaters (Puffinus gravis) in Cold and Warm Water Regions of the South Atlantic Ocean. PLoS ONE 5(11):e15508

  7. Timoney, K. P. & R. A. Ronconi (2010) Annual Bird Mortality in the Bitumen Tailings Ponds in Northeastern Alberta, Canada. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 122(3):567-576

  8. Ryan, P.G. & R.A. Ronconi (2010) The Tristan Thrush Nesocichla eremita as seabird predator. Ardea 98:247-250

  9. Ronconi, R.A., Z.T. Swaim, H.A. Lane, R.W. Hunnewell, A.J. Westgate, & H.N. Koopman (2010) Modified hoop-net techniques for capturing birds at sea and comparison with other capture methods. Marine Ornithology 38(1):23-29

  10. Burger, A.E., R.A. Ronconi, M.P. Silvergieter, C. Conroy, V. Bahn, I.A. Manly, A. Cober & D.B. Lank (2010) Factors affecting the availability of thick epiphyte mats and other potential nest platforms for Marbled Murrelets in British Columbia. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 40: 727-746

  11. Ronconi, R.A. & J.M. Hipfner (2009) Egg neglect under risk of predation in Cassin's auklet (Ptychoramphus aleuticus). Canadian Journal of Zoology 87: 415-421

  12. Ronconi, R.A. & A.E. Burger (2009) Estimating seabird densities from vessel transects: distance sampling and implications for strip transects. Aquatic Biology 4: 297-309

  13. Bellefleur, D., P. Lee & R.A. Ronconi (2009) The impact of recreational boat traffic on Marbled Murrelets (Brachyramphus marmoratus) off the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Journal of Environmental Management 90: 531-538

  14. Ronconi, R.A. & A.E. Burger (2008) Limited foraging flexibility: increased foraging effort by a marine predator does not buffer against scarce preyMarine Ecology Progress Series 366: 245-258.

  15. Wong, S.N.P., R.A. Ronconi, A.E. Burger & B. Hansen (2008) Marine distribution and behavior of juvenile Marbled Murrelets off southwest Vancouver Island, British Columbia: applications for monitoring. Condor 110: 306-315.

  16. Ronconi, R.A. (2007) The spectacular migration of greater shearwaters. BirdWatch Canada 39: 4-7.

  17. Haynes, T.B., R.A. Ronconi & A.E. Burger (2007) Habitat use and behaviour of the Pacific Sand Lance (Ammodytes hexapterus) in the shallow subtidal region of southwestern Vancouver Island. Northwestern Naturalist 88: 155-167.

  18. Ronconi, R.A. (2006) Predicting bird oiling events at oil sands tailings ponds and assessing the importance of alternate waterbodies for waterfowl: a preliminary assessment. Canadian Field-Naturalist 120: 1-9.

  19. Ronconi, R.A. & C.C. St. Clair (2006) Efficacy of a radar-activated on-demand system for deterring waterfowl from oil sands tailings ponds. Journal of Applied Ecology 43: 111-119.

  20. Ronconi, R.A., C.C. St. Clair, P. O’Hara, & A.E. Burger (2004) Waterbird deterrence at oil spills and other hazardous zones: potential applications of a radar-activated on-demand deterrence system. Marine Ornithology 32: 25-33.

  21. Ronconi, R.A. & S.N.P. Wong (2003) Estimates of changes in seabird numbers in the Grand Manan Archipelago, New Brunswick, CanadaWaterbirds 26: 462-472.

  22. Ronconi, R.A., & C.C. St. Clair (2002) Management options to reduce boat disturbance on foraging black guillemots (Cepphus grylle) in the Bay of Fundy. Biological Conservation 108: 265-271.