Alaska's marine ecosystems support one of the world's greatest concentrations of seabirds, with an estimated 100 million individuals of 75 species either breeding on the state's coastlines and offshore islands or visiting Alaska's waters in the summer.
Seabirds influence, and are influenced by, commercially valuable fish populations, and, as widespread and numerous upper-trophic predators, seabirds play an important role in overall marine ecosystem dynamics. Seabirds are also vulnerable to direct fisheries interactions through bycatch, and are an important resource for people who rely on
Alaska's marine waters for subsistence harvests and cultural or recreational value. For all of these reasons, seabird studies have been an important priority for NPRB. Seabird projects funded by the Board can be organized into six broad topics that address both marine ecosystem information needs and pressing fishery management issues:
Through 2008, the Board has funded 19 seabirdfocused projects for a total of $3.4 million, of which seven have been completed. Projects fall within six of the research need categories, with two focused on long-term climate change, three on population dynamics, four on foraging success, five on marine habitat use, three on fisheries interactions, and two on management tool development, which cuts across all research categories. Fourteen of the studies have been process focused, and NPRB also funded three retrospective and two monitoring studies. (Photo: Todd Warshaw/NPRB)
Albatrosses are being translocated from one Japanese island to another in an attempt to give the small population of this endangered species a chance to recover. This NPRB funded project, Short-Tailed Albatross New Colony Establishment Phase 2: Post-Fledgling Survival and Marine Habitat Use of Hand-Reared vs. Naturally-Reared Chicks, is receiving media attention in the U.S. as well as in Japan, where albatrosses are considered special natural treasures.
(FEBRUARY 2011) One of the translocated short-tailed albatrosses has returned to the site where it was hand-reared on Mukojima just three years after fledging. The news is promising that they may begin to consider the safer island of Mukojima to be their new home. Establishing a third colony is a requirement for the U.S. to delist this endangered species.
The team also reports that the fourth successful translocation of 15 albatross chicks occurred in early February 2011 (left).
(AUGUST 2010) Media links on Japanese television (in Japanese, but translatable online in some browsers) include a prime time news broadcast on Japanese television of a translocated and hand-reared albatross from the island of Mukojima in 2008. See a larger version of the image above.
Three other programs spotlight the nature of the Aleutian Islands and its productive feeding grounds, featuring high-quality footage of feeding humpback whales, killer whales, bears, shearwaters, and albatrosses: Darwin has Come! (aired Nov. 7), Wonder x Wonder (aired Nov. 13), and Wildlife (aired Feb. 2011).
(FEBRUARY 2010) Field team members reported the translocation of 15 short-tailed albatross chicks from Torishima Island to Mukojima Island.
Apparently these chicks were removed just in time, because back on Torishima, strong rains on 12-13 February caused a landslide that buried some of the chicks. The crew rescued two live chicks under the sand, but two were found dead and another six may have been killed. Some valuable nesting habitat was lost as well.
The albatrosses are being translocated to Mukojima in an attempt to give the small population of this endangered species a chance to recover. The birds are registered by the Japanese government as special natural treasures. Read more about this phase of the project in the Mainichi Daily News (English translation)
(SUMMER 2009) Investigator Rob Suryan reports that one of the Short-Tailed Albatross fledglings from the Japanese island of Mukojima was recently off the Monterey Bay-Big Sur coast for about a week. This is one of the birds that was translocated to Mukojima in an attempt to give the small population of this endangered species a chance to recover. Click each image to see larger versions.
The team has been tracking the birds via satellite, and evidence of their travels has been showing up simply as lines on a map. Therefore, it was all the more surprising and exciting to learn of an actual sighting by a group of birders off California. See a larger version of the albatross tracking map at right.
Although the fledgling appears to be molting, it appears that the tracking device should hold on for a while longer, making it possible for the recovery team to follow the progress of this albatross as it ranges far and wide over the Pacific. Albatross photos courtesy Alvaro Jaramillo. Learn more about the Albatross Recovery Project
(May 2009) Part of Project 801 has been mapping seasonal distributions of various species of albatrosses, kittiwakes, gulls, petrels and shearwaters, throughout a large arc of northern ocean between North America and Asia.
From 2002-2007, researchers surveyed marine birds from a "ship of opportunity" and recorded all observations within 400 m of the vessel along a 7,500-kilometer transect.
(June 2010) The nonprofit Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST) studies short and long-term indicators of coastal environmental health in the North Pacific by enlisting the efforts of hundreds of citizens to identify and catalog dead birds on West Coast beaches. This small army of volunteers walking the coastlines has unearthed big news for scientists, who use the data to search for patterns and changes in the ocean.
University of Washington researcher Julia Parrish launched the program in 1998. "I wanted to create a thing that could bring citizens and scientists closer together ... Everybody has a place where they live, or where they like to go. They look at it and see changes ... they really want to know, to find out what is happening. That is what is most important."
NPRB funded Parrish's efforts in 2006 and 2007. Projects 612 and 732 funded the development of COASST-Alaska, enrolling more citizen scientists and significantly extending the geographic range of the program.
COASST-Alaska has successfully implemented beached bird data collection on 43 beaches in Homer, Seward, Sitka, the Pribilof Islands, and the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. It has established partnerships with seven agency, tribal, and non-governmental organizations and included Native communities in data collection. And, the program has demonstrated the use of COASST data in science and natural resource management.