Dr. Hannah Williams

Affiliated Scientist
IMPRS Faculty
Department of Migration
University of Konstanz

Main Focus

I am new to the Max Planck having just taking up a postdoctoral research position within the Safi Lab. Over the next two years Hannah will combine the use of different techniques: bio-logging, UAVs and simulation modelling, to investigate the eavesdropping behaviour of soaring birds. Specifically, how soaring birds may acquire and interpret the visual cues indicative of airflow, that are available in the soaring behaviour of their conspecifics. I will examine whether these cues can be used to essentially map an otherwise invisible and dynamic energy landscape of updraft hotspots and downdrafts. Thus, providing a mechanistic understanding of the use of social information to inform the movement decisions of soaring birds.

Curriculum Vitae

Postdoctoral Researcher. Emily Shepard, ERC funded, Swansea University.  01/11/2017 – 31/10/2019

Quantify the energetic cost of flapping flight for Andean Condors in relation to the potential energy that can be gained in soaring flight; Deployment of Daily Diary and GPS tags on Andean condors to obtain flight data; Boolean based classification of behaviour for movement cost analyses.


PhD Bioscience Emily Shepard, Andrew King, (SLAM, SHOAL), Swansea University Studentship     2013 – 2017

Soaring behaviour in a social scavenger: Insights from bio-logging techniques. Development of bio-logging techniques and data visualisation software to identify movement patterns. Designed and built tags for deployment on condors, vultures and albatross, including field seasons in South Africa and France

MSc by Research Stuart Bearhop. University of Exeter, Cornwall campus.  2012 –2013

Investigating over-wintering strategies of Northern gannets (Morus bassanus) using stable isotope analysis and geolocation.  Stable isotope analyses and GLS locations; large data processing within an collaborative multi-year project.

Visiting Researcher. University of St Andrews. Pat Wilmer. 01/2012 – 07/2012

Movement and foraging decisions of bumble bees (Bombus terrestris) as influenced by the scent marks of foraging ants (Formica aquilonia).


Field Assistant. Rene Swift, Patrick Miller. University of St Andrews. 07/2011 – 08/2011

SMRU (Sea Mammal Research Unit); MICS (Mingan Island Cetacean Study), Quebec, Canada. Tag set up and release of little Leonardo tags to collect fine scale movement data of foraging humpback whales


Tropical Biology Association student. Uganda. BES funded 06/2011 – 07/2011

Developed research skills for ecological studies in savannah and tropic forest ecosystems


Field Assistant. Volker Deecke, Patrick Miller. University of St Andrews. SMRU and BBC funded. 06/2010 – 07/2010

Cetacean foraging, Minke and Humpback whale and the social structure of Killer whale groups. Collected acoustic and ID photographs in Husavik, and the Vestmannaeyjar islands of Iceland.; SOCPROG analyses; Filmed by BBC wildlife.


FGASA field guide, Kruger National Park, South Africa. 06/2009 – 07/2009

Completed the FGASA level 1 field guide course as recognised by South Africa

BSc Zoology University of St Andrews.                                                                                         2007 – 2011

Honours Project: Group specific vocalisations in Northeast Atlantic killer whales (Orcina orca) (SMRU)

Modules included: Animal Behaviour; environmental physiology; conservation research methods; ecology; vocal behaviour; cell biology and genetics; chemistry; Italian language


General Research Aims:

- Record and investigate how animals move through dynamic environments, focusing on flight of soaring birds

- Quantify the influence of environmental and social information on movement strategy, from the individual to the group


Presentations and Workshops

(2019) The Movement Ecology of Animals, Gordon Research Seminar (GRS), Tuscany, Italy (Seminar talk)

(2017) The 6th International Bio-logging Symposium (BLS6), Konstanz, Germany (Conference talk, Symposium talk and Chair)

(2016) ISBE, Exeter, UK (Talk)

(2015) Congrès EcoloTech Innovations en écologie, Montpellier, France (Talk)

(2015) Movement Ecology Workshop, Zurich University, Switzerland (student and workshop Re: tag technology)

(2014) The 5th international bio-logging symposium (BLS5), Strasbourg, France (Talk)

(2013) Association for the study of animal behaviour, Easter meeting, Newcastle, UK (Poster)


University Positions

Science Outreach (Soapbox Science, British Science Festival etc.); Bio-logging society member; British Ecological Society member

Jan 2017 – Oct 2019– Statistics Help Desk Assistant, Swansea University

May 2017 – Oct 2017 – Natural History Workshop Delivery Assistant for S4 science, Swansea University: design and deliver workshops in physics, chemistry and biology ages 7-18

Oct 2016 – June 2017 – Oriel science student ambassador for outreach, Swansea University

Jan 2015 – July 2015– Exam Invigilator, Swansea University

Oct 2013 – Present: Demonstrator, Swansea University: Undergrad and Masters level; statistics and coding in R

Jan 2013- June 2013: Outreach Grand Challenges Facilitator: A mentor to a group of 11 first year students in a summer programme through creative mini projects, including survival skills and documentary filming and editing.

Jan 2013 – June 2013: Aviary Assistant

Jan 2013 – June 2013: Assistant Exam Invigilator, University of Exeter

Oct 2012 – June 2013: Demonstrator: Ecosystems and Conservation; Physiology, University of Exeter

Jan 2012 – June 2012: Demonstrator: Junior honours, Animal plant interactions, University of St Andrews


Recent Publications

Williams, H.J., Lambertucci, S.A., Holton, M.D., Wilson, R.P., Alarcon, P.A.E. & Shepard, E.L.C. (In review PNAS). Extreme low flight costs determined by exploitation of temporally variable updrafts suggest no room for errors.

Wilson, R.P., Williams, H.J., Holton, M.D., di Virgilio, A., Börger, L., Potts, J.R., Gunner, R., Arkwright, A., Alagaili, A., Duarte, C.M., Scantlebury, D.M. (accepted). The Orientation sphere: a visualisation for examining animal head movements. MEE.

Williams, H.J. & Taylor, L. et al. (2019). Optimising the use of bio-loggers for movement ecology research. JAE. DOI 10.1111/1365-2656.13094

Grecian, W.J. & Williams, H.J. et al. (2019). Individual spatial consistency and dietary flexibility in the migratory behavior of northern gannets wintering in the Northeast Atlantic. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. 7(214). DOI 10.3389/fevo.2019.00214

Wilson, R.P., Borger, L., Holton, M.D., Gomez-Laich, A., Quintana, F., Rosell, F., Graf, P., Williams, H.J., et al. (2019). Estimates for energy expenditure in free-living animals using acceleration proxies, a reappraisal. JAE. DOI 10.1111/1365-2656.13040

Williams, H.J., Duriez, O., Holton, M.D., Dell’Omo, G., Wilson, R.P. and Shepard, E.L.C. (2018). Vultures respond to challenges of near-ground thermal soaring by varying bank angle. Journal of Experimental Biology. 221(23). JEB174995.

Williams, H.J., King, A.J., Duriez, O., Börger, L. and Shepard, E.L.C. (2018). Social eavesdropping allows for a more risky gliding strategy by thermal-soaring birds. Journal of the Royal Society Interface. 15(148), 20180578.

Wilson, R.P., Holton, M.D., di Vigilio, A., Williams, H.J., et al. (2018). Give the machine a hand: A Boolean time-based decision-tree template for finding animal behaviours rapidly in multi-sensor data. Methods in Ecology and Evolution. 1-10.

Williams, H.J., Holton, M.D., Shepard, E.L.C., Largey, N., Norman, B., Ryan, P.G., Duriez, O., Scantlebury, M., Quintana, F., Magowan, E.A., Marks,N.J., Alagaili,A.N., Bennett, N.C. & Wilson,R.P. (2017). Identification of animal movement patterns using tri-axial magnetometry. Movement Ecology. 5(6).

Williams, H.J., Shepard, E.L.C., Duriez, O. and Lambertucci, S.A. (2015). Can Accelerometry be used to distinguish between flight types in soaring birds? Animal Biotelemetry. 3(45). 

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