Conservation Science
Northeast Region

Science Seminar Series

November 2015

Slideshow of presentation (PDF-6.57MB)

Date: Tuesday, Nov. 10 from noon-1p.m. EDT. USFWS Regional Office Large Auditorium. This seminar will be broadcast on the internet. You will be able to view the presentation by clicking this link or for closed captioning, please use this link:

Title: "Wildlife Distributions and Habitat Use on the Mid-Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf"

Presenters: Kate Williams, Wildlife and Renewable Energy Program Director, Biodiversity Research Institute

Abstract: A three-year, multi-state project recently filled significant ecological data gaps on bird, marine mammal, and sea turtle distributions and movements off the mid-Atlantic coast of the United States. The goal of this project was to improve the understanding of species composition and use of the marine environment from Delaware to Virginia, in order to inform sustainable offshore wind energy development in the mid-Atlantic United States. Funded by the Department of Energy in 2011, with additional support from a wide range of partners, the Mid-Atlantic Baseline Studies Project represents an extensive collaborative effort between government agencies, universities, nonprofits, and private industry. Primary components included:

  • Surveys: Researchers conducted boat-based surveys and high-resolution digital video aerial surveys to quantify wildlife abundance throughout the study region, and identify important habitat use or aggregation areas.
  • Tracking: Researchers used individual tracking methods for several focal bird species to provide information on population connectivity, individual movements, and seasonal site fidelity
  • Modeling: Statistical models were developed to help understand the drivers of wildlife distribution patterns and to predict the environmental conditions likely to support large densities of wildlife.

Boat-based and high resolution digital video aerial survey methodologies were found to be largely complementary. The study area was important for wintering and breeding taxa, and its location also made it a key migratory corridor. There was considerable variation in species composition and spatial patterns by season, but habitat gradients in nearshore waters were important influences on productivity and patterns of species distributions and abundance. Though some species displayed a more offshore distribution, there was generally higher overall abundance and diversity of wildlife within about 30-40 km of shore. Areas offshore of the mouths of Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, as well as to the south of Delaware Bay along the coast, were consistent hotspots of abundance and species diversity, regardless of survey methodology or analytical approach.

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Last updated: November 10, 2015