Luke Swindell

A little bit about me

I am an undergraduate in my third year studying BSc Zoology at the University of Exeter with an interest in animal behaviour, cognition, and human-wildlife conflict. I am also a student ambassador for the university.

I became part of this project after choosing to do a dissertation focusing on animal behaviour in relation to human-wildlife conflict with Neeltje Boogert as my supervisor. Herring gulls are at the heart of much of the human-wildlife conflict occurring in the UK and are also very intelligent animals that have adapted well to living alongside humans in urban environments, yet as a result of this close proximity with us they are treated as ‘nuisance’ animals. Understanding how herring gulls respond to human behaviour can help us understand how to better protect them against the persecution they face. This means that herring gulls were a perfect study species for my project and so I decided to get involved with “Team Herring Gull”!

My current focus is on how herring gulls respond to human behavioural cues to steal or forage human food in urban environments. In particular I am investigating whether gulls alter their behaviour when taking food according to the number of humans present, human posture, and which direction the people are facing. This research has taken place during the busy tourist season in Cornwall at some of the most popular beaches throughout the summer. I am also investigating whether gulls work cooperatively when foraging human food or whether they work in competition with each other. Understanding gull behaviour in these situations can help mitigate conflict with gulls.

My interests outside of my university work include running, hiking, travelling, and working alongside animals any way I can. I have previously volunteered with zoos such as the Big Cat Sanctuary and Paradise Wildlife Park as well as wildlife rescue centres. I also love to climb mountains having summitted Mount Kilimanjaro last summer! I am also a budding photographer and will use any opportunity to get outdoors and take some photos of the wildlife.

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