Conservation Science
Northeast Region

Science Seminar Series

May 2014

1. Date: Wednesday, May 14, noon-1p.m., 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: Using Seabirds to Track Ecosystem Change in the Gulf of Maine

Presenter: Linda Welch, Refuge Biologist at Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge

Abstract: For the past 30 years, Maine Coastal Islands NWR (MCINWR), National Audubon Society, and Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife have documented annual population levels, productivity rates, diet composition and feeding rates on 11 managed seabird colonies in Maine. While extensive data has been collected at the colonies, we know very little about the at-sea ecology of birds in the Gulf of Maine. While seabird must return to land to raise their young, they spend the majority of their time at sea foraging for themselves or their chicks. As a result, seabirds are intimately linked to physical and biological characteristics of marine ecosystems. Seabirds need persistent aggregations of prey to be located within commuting distance of their breeding colonies. Recently, seabird managers have observed what appear to be significant changes in forage fish abundance and availability for breeding seabirds. Several colonies have abandoned or experienced complete reproductive failure due to lack of available forage fish. Seabirds are more easily observed, counted, and studied than other marine organisms and changes in ecosystem function will be evident in these upper trophic level predators. MCINWR has begun using satellite tags and coded radio tags to try and determine where the birds are foraging, and what habitat characteristics are associated with those foraging areas. We believe that integrating our monitoring efforts at the breeding colonies, our remote tracking studies, and ongoing at-sea monitoring efforts will demonstrate that seabirds are a vital tool for understanding change within the Gulf of Maine ecosystem.

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2. Date: Thursday, May 15, Noon-1 p.m., Northeast Region 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: Songbird Migration and Stopover in the Gulf of Maine: Implications for Offshore Wind Development

Presenters: Jen Smetzer1,2, Dave King1,2,3, Curt Griffin1,2
1. Department of Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 2. UMass Offshore Wind Energy IGERT 3.USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station

Abstract: In this seminar we will discuss the use of Nano Tag radio transmitters and automated telemetry receivers to track migrant songbirds in the Gulf of Maine. Our goal in this work is to assess the risk of offshore wind energy development to migrant songbirds, generate models and maps that can predict areas of high use and migratory movement, and inform siting for offshore wind energy in the Gulf of Maine. In the fall of 2013, we outfitted 60 red-eyed vireos (Vireo olivaceus) and 23 blackpoll Warblers (Setophega striata) with VHF NanoTag radio transmitters at the Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge in Steuben Maine. We tracked birds with an array of 9 automated telemetry receivers deployed on islands and coastal areas in the Gulf of Maine. We will present preliminary results from this first season of tracking, and plans for 2014. In addition, we will discuss future application of this technology at finer spatial scales to identify landscape-scale stopover and habitat use, and current applications of the technology to other species within the IGERT program. Finally, we will present plans and ongoing work toward a collaborative Atlantic Tracking Network.

Presenter Bios: 

Jennifer Smetzer is a Ph.D. student and NSF funded IGERT Offshore Wind Energy Fellow in the Department of Environmental Conservation at UMass Amherst. Her research interest is in applied conservation, renewable energy and climate change ecology, and statistical modeling techniques.

David King is a Research Wildlife Biologist with the USFS Northern Research Station, and an adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Conservation at UMass Amherst. His interests are in applied conservation research, including the effects of forest management, climate change, urbanization, habitat restoration and agroforestry on Neotropical migrants during breeding, migration and stopover, with an emphasis on full life cycle conservation. This multidisciplinary approach combines ecology, ornithology and conservation biology with advanced sampling, statistical and modeling techniques to evaluate the relationship between habitat conditions and stressors with the abundance and fitness of birds and other organisms.

Curt Griffin has been working to conserve wildlife for over 30 years. As Department Head and Professor of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, he has dedicated his life to conserving endangered species and teaching and training professionals in wildlife conservation. His research and conservation efforts have spanned five continents, from his work with elephants in Africa and Southeast Asia to sea turtles in the Caribbean. Curt’s current research efforts with his grad students are focused on assessing the effects of climate change and offshore wind energy facilities on wildlife.

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Last updated: April 8, 2015