Science

Studying Seabirds on St. Lazaria Island, photo by Nora Rojek, USFWS

We study marine birds, watching for changes in the marine environment that signal conservation problems.


  Defining "Normal" with Long-Term, Time-series Data

Our monitoring program provides long-term, time-series data. When the data reveal biologically-significant changes, scientists can test hypotheses about the causes of those changes. This long-term monitoring program is an integral part of the management of the Alaska Maritime Refuge. The information it provides is used to define "normal" variability in demographic parameters and identify patterns that fall outside norms, thereby signaling conservation issues

Strategy for Data Collection
The strategy for colony monitoring includes estimating timing of nesting events, reproductive success, population trends, and prey used by representative species of various foraging guilds (e.g., murres are offshore diving fish-feeders, kittiwakes are offshore surface-feeding fish-feeders, auklets are diving plankton-feeders, etc.) at geographically dispersed breeding sites along the entire coastline of Alaska.

Monitoring Sites
A total of 10 sites on Alaska Maritime Refuge located roughly 300 to 500 km apart, are scheduled for annual surveys, and at least some data is available from all of these in most years. In addition, colonies near the annual sites are identified for less frequent surveys to "calibrate" the information gathered at the annual sites. Data provided from other research projects (e.g., those associated with evaluating the impacts of oil spills on marine birds) also supplement the monitoring database.

Annual Monitoring Field Stations
(from north to south around the coast)

  • Cape Lisburne
  • St. Paul
  • St. George
  • Buldir
  • Kasatochi - No annual monitoring since the volcanic eruption of 2008. 
  • Aiktak
  • Chowiet
  • E. Amatuli
  • St. Lazaria

 

 

 

Examples of Target Species for Seabird Monitoring

 Feeding Method      DietFeed NearshoreFeed Offshore
SurfaceFish-eatingGullKittiwake
 Plankton-eating                Fork-tailed storm-petrel             Leach’s storm-petrel
DivingFish-eatingGuillemotsMurres
 Plankton-eatingWhiskered aukletsLeast auklets