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Resource Management

Habitat SculptureManagement of remote islands offers several challenges including bringing supplies to the islands.

Management activities on the island include invasive plant control and habitat improvement. Invasive plant species on the island compete with natives and degrade habitat available to burrow-nesting seabirds such as Cassin’s and Rhinoceros Auklets. Dense stands of annual grasses and mat-forming New Zealand spinach make areas unavailable to potential nesters by blocking access to the soil. Habitat improvements, such as controlling invasive species and removing the debris that has accumulated due to decades of human occupation, are an ongoing process.

To improve nesting habitat and to aid with research, a habitat sculpture was built in 2002 by Meadowsweet Dairy using broken up cement around a steel frame to create habitat for crevice nesting seabirds. Nest boxes with plexiglass backs were placed between chunks of the abandoned concrete to facilitate monitoring activities. Cassin’s Auklets nested in the boxes in the first season after completion and Pigeon Guillemots moved in the second year.

In 2000 boardwalks were built in cooperation with several partners at strategic locations across the island to prevent field station staff from crushing burrows during daily activities. The boardwalks were constructed using an “auklet through” design to provide spaces for seabirds to excavate burrows between planks. Density of burrows along the boardwalks is higher than natural areas after only three years. Projects on the horizon include creation of a murre nesting ledge from concrete rubble, continued removal of debris, and reconstructing the trail to the lighthouse to make it more bird friendly.

Management of the refuge also restricts public access and minimizes the impact researchers have on Southeast Farallon Island. With the exception of food and propane for cooking, Southeast Farallon Island is a self-sufficient research station. The Coast Guard stopped supplying the island with water and diesel in 1998 leaving refuge staff to find new ways of providing water and electricity. In accordance with the US Fish and Wildlife Service's commitment to environmental conservation, it was decided that instead of transporting water from the mainland, rainwater would be collected on the island and the noisy, unreliable generators would be converted to solar, dramatically reducing diesel consumption and emissions.

 Crane Lifting BoatA self-sufficient duty station does not come without cost and personnel must continually perform maintenance and facility repairs in addition to biological activities. There is an obvious down-side to collecting water from a bird refuge and purifying and moving the water around the island requires a network of pipes, filters, and pumps that must be constantly maintained. There is no dock on the island so a rotating crane is used to lift the work boat from the water to the landing area. The crane also requires frequent maintenance. 

The houses were constructed in 1879, and the main residence house was recently remodeled providing a comfortable retreat from the howling wind and nesting  gulls. Food and personnel are brought to the island by a dedicated group known as the Farallon Patrol. The patrol is an organization of boat owners (mostly sailboats) who volunteer to make the run to the island once or twice a year. They are the Farallon supply line. 

A tradition that spans back to 1968 is keeping a journal that documents the day's events. The Farallon Journal is kept by Point Blue Conservation Science (formerly known as PRBO Conservation Science) biologists.  They record weather, unusual events, and any birds seen that day, among other things.  These journals are a vital link to the past and have become a rich source of data of the changing conditions and wildlife populations of the islands.

Page Photo Credits — Crane Lifting Boat onto Southeast Farallon Island/Nikki Roach
Last Updated: Jul 07, 2013
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