Seabirds are adapted to finding food in marine habitats, from coastal estuaries to the open ocean. Seabirds are generally long-lived, nest in colonies, and make some of the longest migrations on the planet. The combination of these factors places seabirds, as a group, among the most threatened birds.

Following seabirds for conservation science

 

The Seabird Oceanography Lab is involved in research focusing on seabird ecology, movement ecology, oceanography, and integrated ecosystem studies while providing research and educational opportunities for students. We are spread across OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, and OSU’s main campus in Corvallis, with our academic home in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Our research applications range from colony-and vessel-based observational studies to deploying state of the art electronics to study individual foraging, dispersal, migration, and behavior patterns of seabirds. These biologging data are often integrated with in-situ and remotely-sensed measures of prey resources or their proxies or related to human activities (e.g., fishing). In addition to environmental "bottom-up" studies, we also study the "top-down" effects of predators on seabird population dynamics and life histories.

Conservation aspects of our research include population assessment and monitoring, seabird-fishery interactions, species restoration, identification of marine important bird areas, and marine spatial planning.

We seek to engage students and the public in seabird science and conservation via social media, community presentations, experiential education, banding programs, webcams, and other means.

Welcome! We hope you enjoy exploring some of our current projects.

Middleton Island –Gulf of Alaska

Far from the Alaskan coast, Middleton Island is a land of shipwrecks, earthquakes, Cold War relics, and seabirds. Take a 20-minute video tour of the island –meet the biologists who work here, discover the birds that call it home, and learn more about what makes this place so special.

Seabird Oceanography Lab member Adam Peck-Richardson lead field work there tracking Pelagic Cormorants as part of the Cormorant Oceanography Project. Cormorants are diving seabirds that forage for fish throughout the world’s coastal oceans. We use small GPS tags with integrated depth, temperature, and motion sensors to track cormorants and simultaneously collect oceanographic data. These datasets provide insights into seabird ecology and the physical ocean environment that they explore every day. You can also read more about this effort on our blog.

Using video loggers to understand Adélie penguin foraging

Adélie penguins spend most of their lives at sea, returning to land to raise their chicks. Many details of their seabound lives, what they eat, how they catch it, have long been a mystery. New miniaturized video cameras allow us to follow these birds into their ocean home and study their life below the surface.

This research is led by Suzie Winquist in collaboration with Point Blue Conservation Science and the Penguin Science Team. View full-size research poster (PDF).

Aleutian tern breeding ecology

The Aleutian tern breeding population in Alaska is rapidly declining, and due to a lack of information, the reasons for this decline remain unknown. As few as 5,000 individual terms may remain in the Alaskan population. Information collected by nest cameras (as seen here), is providing critical information to help researchers understand Aleutian tern breeding ecology.

Watch Aleutian tern nest video. This research is led by Jill Tengeres.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service - Aleutian Terns in the Kodiak Archipelago

 

Tufted Puffin Prey

The population of tufted puffins on the Oregon coast have declined over the last few decades. We’re currently developing a community science program to source photos of birds with fish in their mouths/talons. If you have photos of puffins, murres, osprey or other birds, carrying fish on the Oregon coast, contact Noah!

This research is being led by Wildlife Management Graduate Certificate student Noah Dolinajec.

 

Cormorant Oceanography Project

A tagged Socotra cormorant incubates its nest at Bu Tinah Island in the United Arab Emirates. We use small GPS tags with integrated depth, temperature, and motion sensors to track cormorants and simultaneously collect oceanographic data. Data from this tag is providing insight into this cormorant’s foraging behavior and migratory patterns. Tag data will also allow oceanographers to enhance current and circulation models of the Arabian Gulf. To hear more about this project listen to Faculty Research Assistant, Adam Peck-Richardson give short presentation. You can also visit our project website.

 

Atlantic Puffin Foraging Ecology

The Gulf of Maine is one of the most rapidly-warming water bodies in the world, causing dramatic shifts in the distribution and composition of the forage fish community. Using GPS tags and fecal DNA metabarcoding, we hope to examine how Atlantic puffin foraging behavior and diet responds to these changes.

This research is being led by Fisheries and Wildlife MS student Will Kennerley in collaboration with Project Puffin.

 

Factors Influencing Seabird Colony Attendance

Seabird colony attendance is dynamic. For example, least auklets show in this video are coming to their colony on the island of St. George, Alaska to attend their nests found under the boulders, socialize, and feed their chicks. Understanding the factors that influence the dynamics of seabird colony attendance can help managers better utilize new technologies to track seabird populations through time. This research review is being led by Wildlife Management Graduate Certificate student Sarah Guitart.

 

Albatross-Fishing Vessel Encounters

Despite knowing that seabird bycatch from fisheries is a significant problem for many albatross populations, we have long struggled to know where birds go, where boats fish, and where the two interact in the vast oceans, especially in international waters. We combined albatross tracking data from the three albatross species in the North Pacific with the Global Fishing Watch dataset of fishing vessels to disentangle bird behavior, fishing vessel characteristic, and environmental drivers of close encounters between birds and boats.

Research review led by Rachael Orben. This research was just published in the Journal of Applied Ecology and you can also read more about our findings it in our blog post.

 

Yaquina Head Seabird Monitoring

Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area located on the Central Oregon coast hosts a large colony of common murres and cormorants. The Seabird Oceanography Lab, has been monitoring seabirds at the site since 2007 during the nesting period (May-August). In 2020, foraging conditions were reasonable but unprecedented numbers of bald eagles disturbed the colony causing breeding failure for common murres. (view poster PDF, 2020 report)

This research project led by Jessica Porquez. See the full report at Yaquina Head Seabird Colony - 2020 Season Summary (PDF).

 

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