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Assessment of disturbance responses by gulls on a seabird nesting island in coastal Maine (collaborators: Fred Servello, John Sowles, Monika Parsons of UMaine)

Left: Monika parsons recording data about gull nest on Jordan’s Delight Island, Maine<br />

Duration

January 2009 - December 2011

Narrative

There are no published studies of effects of aquaculture operations on seabird nesting islands in Maine or elsewhere. There is a relatively large body of literature on effects of human activities, specifically research and monitoring, on seabird behavior, however, these results are not directly applicable to aquaculture issues. Information on the “natural” patterns of variability in seabird behaviors are needed to develop study designs for determining effects of aquaculture operations in future studies. Traditional approaches using observers to study seabird behavior are not a good option because of logistical and funding constraints and need to minimize the confounding of effects of investigator and aquaculture disturbance. Remote monitoring tools (e.g., cameras, temperature sensors, movement monitoring) potentially provide a means to increase sample replicates while minimizing human-caused disturbance. Our study combines active observer and passive recording to document seabird activity on selected coastal islands during the nesting and brood-rearing periods.
We studied behaviors of four species of seabirds, Black Guillemots (Cepphus grylle), Common Eiders (Somateria mollissima), Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) and Great Black-backed Gulls (Larus marinus) nesting on Jordan’s Delight Island, Washington Co., Maine. We used a combination of temperature loggers, time-lapse cameras, and motion activated cameras to measure nest attendance of gulls and eiders and colony attendance of guillemots and gulls. We also conducted over 200 hours of observations to evaluate the utility of the remote monitoring equipment for detecting disturbance events and documenting typical disturbance regimens for this island. We will quantify the behavioral responses to different types of disturbances to help predict how birds will react to aquaculture activity and make recommendations on effective monitoring methods for assessing effects of an aquaculture facility placed near a breeding island. We also are developing methods to automate counts of flying gulls captured on digital photographs to improve efficiency of camera based monitoring.
The objectives of our study are:
1) Document activity patterns and behavior during nesting and brood-rearing for selected seabird species to inform future studies about aquaculture-seabird interactions in Maine
2) Develop methods and techniques for monitoring selected seabird species to identify and document effects of aquaculture-related disturbance.

Research Products and Activities

Thesis

  • Parsons, M. 2011. Developing methods to monitor seabird response to disturbance on a coastal Maine island.

Presentations

  • Parsons, M., C.S. Loftin, F. Servello. Monitoring Seabird Behavior on a Coastal Maine Island: Developing methods to better understand potential effects of marine finfish aquaculture on seabird breeding colonies. Presentation to the State Chapter of The Wildlife Society, Brewer, ME.
  • Parsons, M., C.S. Loftin, and F. Servello. 2010. Behavioral responses of nesting Black Guillemots to disturbance on a coastal Maine island. 2010 University of Maine Graduate Research Expo, 15-16 April, Orono, ME. Parsons presented.
  • Parsons, M., C.S. Loftin, and F. Servello. 2010. Remotely monitoring seabird responses to disturbance by avian predators, boats and observers during the breeding season. The Wilson Ornithological Society 2010 Annual Meeting, 20-23 May, Geneva, NY. Parsons presented.
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Current Staff

Federal Staff: 102

Masters Students: 247

Phd Students: 163

Post Docs: 55

University Staff: 266

5 Year Summary

Students graduated: 722

Scientific Publications: 1960

Presentations: 4355

 

Personnel

  • Cynthia LoftinCo-Principal Investigator
  • Monika ParsonsStudent
  • Andrea LongStaff
  • Charlene HodnettStaff
  • Katheryn ChenardStaff
  • Laurel CopeStaff
  • Lyndsy ShumanStaff

Funding Agencies

  • Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center
  • Maine Department of Marine Resources

Links

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