Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
IZEMBEK: Of Steller's Eiders, Databases, and Survival Estimates
Alaska Region, October 1, 2005
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Since 1961 biologists have monitored Steller’s Eiders in Izembek Lagoon during their fall molt.  For years, biologists used the time consuming process of digitally transcribing field data, summarizing it in a useable format, and then using advanced statistical analyses to estimate survival rates.  Thankfully, this year Abran Steele-Feldman, a graduate student biometric intern, simplified the process.  Steele-Feldman is a student in the University of Washington’s Interdisciplinary Graduate Degree Program in Quantitative Ecology and Resource Management and, according to the Regional Refuge Biometrician, a computer programmer extraordinaire.  He helped develop a MS ACCESS® database for the 44 years of banding data, including a user-friendly interface for data input, error checking, and report creation.  Now, refuge biologists can create the data summaries required at the click of a few buttons.  With a couple of additional mouse clicks the user can fit a variety of multi-state mark-recapture models with another graphical interface Steele-Feldman developed.  These tools greatly streamline the data archiving and analysis process, giving Izembek biologists and the Region 7 Eider Recovery team up-to date information for managing these populations.  The analysis software interface will be available on the Internet for use by anyone interested in fitting the specialized mark-recapture models. 

Steele-Feldman also stepped away from the keyboard to help band and recapture eiders during the fall drive at Izembek Refuge, gaining an appreciation for the logistical challenges of such field work. By September, his programming tasks completed, he migrated south for the winter, and school.

This is the second year of Region 7 Refuge’s Graduate Biometric Internship Program. The position was jointly sponsored by the Region’s Division of Natural Resources and Izembek Refuge.

Contact Info: Kristen Gilbert, 907-786-3391, Kristen_Gilbert@fws.gov
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