August 11, 2014

Spending a Summer Studying Seabirds in the Aleutians

Tags: Core Program

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to spend a summer studying seabirds? For a virtual field experience, check out the daily log of communications and activity summaries from researchers working in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.

One of the projects participating in the field blog is a seabird study that NPRB funded in 2012. Let by Ian Jones, the project is focused on auklets in the Aleutian Islands. Auklets are the most abundant seabirds in Alaska. From May through August, millions of them nest on islands in the Bering Sea to breed. Previous research has shown that auklets’ diet, reproductive success and survival have close linkages to variation in ocean climate and productivity. However, little is known about the wintering areas of most auklet species. This missing information about where auklets go during the non-breeding season is crucial because different species likely winter in different areas of the highly variable marine environment.

This project is attaching geolocation and coded VHF tags to individual birds to measure movement and wintering areas of crested (Aethia cristatella), least (A. pusilla) and other auklet species originating from breeding colonies in the Aleutians at Buldir, Kiska and Gareloi Islands. The goal is to tag enough individuals of each species to rigorously identify wintering areas and to quantify between-species and between-colony differences. Researchers will also assess the tendency of individuals to return to the same place each year (philopatry). 

To see more photos and learn about work being conducted in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, follow the researchers’ blog or to read more about the auklet project described above (#1212), visit the NPRB project browser.