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Science

Counting SeabirdsMany projects take place each year on the Refuge. Some are ongoing studies. Others are one-time efforts. Many are done in partnership with other entities. There are sometimes opportunities for employment or volunteering. Learn more about current plans and projects by calling our office: 907-246-3339.

A Quick Look at Our Projects

Scan the list below to get a summary of what we do. If you'd like more detail, read Science in Our Refuges.

For birdwatchers, get a copy of our bird list.

Christmas Bird Count

Refuge staff cooperate with the National Audubon Society to host an annual Christmas Bird Count. The count area includes the road corridor from the Kvichak Bay beach at Naknek to Lake Camp at the mouth of Naknek Lake. Participants find 9 to18 species of winter birds.

North American Migration Count

To participate in International Migratory Bird Day, the Refuge has sponsored a North American Migration Count on the second Saturday in May since 1998. 57 to 77 species have been observed on one day, and counts range from 4,400 to 8,800 individual birds. 

Assist Public with Injured Raptors

Fish and Wildlife Service permitted activities include assisting with care of injured birds. Visit our “Injured Wildlife” page to learn more.

Assist Public to Report Bird Bands

The public can report bird bands to the U.S. Geological Survey, Biological Resources Division Bird Banding Laboratory at https://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/BBL/bblretrv/ or 1-800-327-2263. Refuge biologists are always interested in the fate of banded birds that are harvested, seen, or found by the public on the Alaska Peninsula.

Landbird Studies

A new statewide monitoring scheme has been developed, called the Alaska Landbird Monitoring Survey.  Four point count blocks have been established on the Alaska Peninsula and Becharof National Wildlife Refuges.

Bald Eagle Monitoring

Bald eagles are the most common raptor observed on the Alaska Peninsula. They have been monitored at the Alaska Peninsula and Becharof Refuges since 1989. Currently the Refuge, with Migratory Bird Management, plans to continue estimating population size every 5 years.

Seabird Monitoring

Although small compared with many of the seabird colonies on Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, the three murre colonies at and near Puale Bay are some of the largest colonies on the Alaska Peninsula. Puale Bay was the most heavily oiled bay outside of Prince William Sound following the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Population data indicate marked improvement since the early 1990s at Puale Bay, but only modest increases at Oil Creek and Jute Peak. The Refuge plans to continue land-based monitoring the Puale Bay colony every three out of ten years, and sea-based monitoring of all colonies when a large boat capable of monitoring is available.

Shorebird Inventory and Monitoring

The bays and river estuaries on the Bristol Bay side of the Alaska Peninsula are well documented as important shorebird migration stopovers. All of the major bays have been nominated as Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network sites. From 2004 – 2007, the Refuge joined with US Geological Survey, BRD staff from the Alaska Science Center to design and implement a large scale shorebird inventory and monitoring program on the Bristol Bay Coastal Plain from the northern boundary of the Becharof drainage to Port Moller.

Tundra Swan Monitoring

Tundra swans gained attention early on in the Refuge’s wildlife inventory and monitoring program. The first monitoring plots were established in 1983 on the Alaska Peninsula coastal lowlands (both inside and outside Refuge boundaries). Survey data through 2008 indicate the tundra swan population on the Northern Alaska Peninsula has been relatively stable.  Ongoing statistical analysis indicates our methods may be slightly underestimating the population, so in 2013 the survey was redesigned and implemented to correct this problem. The Refuge plans to continue surveying tundra swans once every five years.

Willow Ptarmigan Monitoring

Land managers, sport and subsistence hunters, climate change scientists, and predators all have an interest in willow ptarmigan populations.  In 2011, we embarked on a project to examine minimum, relative abundance of willow ptarmigan across the lowlands of the Alaska Peninsula from the Naknek River to Port Moller. 

Small Mammal Surveys

Small mammals provide a prey base for many larger mammals and birds that inhabit the Alaska Peninsula. Very little is known about the small rodents and shrews (insectivores) of the Alaska Peninsula. Biologists are still confirming the presence and distribution of some species, and know little about population trends. To fill this void, Refuge biologists often conduct small mammal surveys in conjunction with other biological projects.

Caribou Monitoring

Refuge staff and staff of the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) cooperate on two annual surveys that monitor the size and composition of the Northern Alaska Peninsula Caribou Herd (NAP). These are the post-calving herd count during June-July, and the composition estimate in October. These surveys provide critical data that the ADF&G uses to determine the harvestable surplus of caribou.

The Refuge also has been monitoring the range and seasonal movements of the NAPSatellite telemetry has been used to document seasonal movements of caribou since 1998. Several caribou cows have been collared with transmitters that allow satellites to periodically locate them. This project has clarified the seasonal ranges and sub-groups of the NAP.

Moose Monitoring

Refuge staff and the ADF&G staff also cooperate on annual surveys that monitor the composition and trend of moose on the Alaska Peninsula. ADF&G established several moose composition survey areas in the 1960’s; a few more have been established since.

Current studies of moose are aimed at evaluating survival of adult and calf moose on the Northern Alaska Peninsula. Data from these projects are an important part of moose management and are used by wildlife managers to design suitable management strategies for moose on the Alaska Peninsula.

Page Photo Credits — Counting Seabirds, Orville Lind/USFWS
Last Updated: Feb 14, 2014
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