Science Center Objects

Demands for alternative energy are increasing and the number of wind farms, both terrestrial and in the marine environment, while serving great benefit to society, have the potential to impact wildlife populations, particularly birds and bats.  Studies of the spatio-temporal distribution and abundance of birds can identify sensitive and high–use areas in need of protection, not to mention improving our knowledge of a species life history.  Together this work will better serve the physical environment while protecting a variety of wildlife species.

Staging HY ROSTs still need parental care

While they can catch some fish on their own by the end of the summer staging period, by then most HY ROSTs still are unlikely to be sufficiently skilled as foragers to survive their first migration to South America without further parental care. The death of the care-giving parent or a prolonged separation before the HY has become self-sustaining likely will result in the death of the HY ROST. (Public domain.)



Evaluation of Potential Offshore Wind Projects in the Northeastern U.S. on Endangered Roseate Terns: Who is at Risk and When?

Terns in coastal areas of the Northeastern US likely will be impacted by construction and operation of offshore wind turbines. The “Cape Cod & Islands” (CCMA) area of Massachusetts is a particularly important area for the endangered Northwest Atlantic Roseate Tern (ROST) population as most ROSTs from throughout the breeding range (Nova Scotia to Long Island, New York) congregate there in large numbers for several months during the postbreeding staging period prior to fall migration to South America. To properly evaluate the risk to this species we need to learn more about the timing of use of the staging sites by ROSTs of different ages/breeding status.





Radar used to see nocturnal birds migrating through the area

Radar used to see nocturnal birds migrating through the area. (Public domain.)




Nocturnal Bird Migration through the Central Appalachians

Concerns have arisen about the potential impacts of wind power development in the Appalachians on migrating birds, creating a critical need for information on their distribution and flight characteristics as they pass through the region. This study focuses on the spatial and temporal distribution of nocturnally migrating birds in the Central Appalachians (MD, VA, WV). The overall objective is to increase our understanding of bird migration through the region, so that informed and scientifically sound recommendations can be made to reduce the risk to migrating birds of wind power projects.


Surf Scoter:  Male surf scoter instrumented with silicone harnesses GSM transmitter being held by Sarah Fitzgerald.

Surf Scoter: Male surf scoter instrumented with silicone harnesses GSM transmitter being held by Sarah Fitzgerald. (Credit: Jonathan Fiely, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Public domain.)







Effects of Dorsally Mounted Solar-powered Cellular GPS Transmitters on Diving and Foraging in Surf Scoters and Red-throated Loons

Numerous proposals for construction of offshore wind farms have scientists racing to determine seabird migration routes and habitat use throughout coastal waters. Two common species of primary concern are redthroated loons (Gavia stellata) and surf scoters (Melanitta perspicillata). While much valuable data has been collected on these species through the use of implantable satellite transmitters, a solution is needed to address poor location estimates (>250 m) and large time gaps between location approximation (~3days). Additionally, mortality rates are above desired levels with implantation of satellite transmitters. In contrast, Solar-powered GPS transmitters allow for almost continuous location collection with location estimates within 18 m. However, to date, little success has been seen with the development of a longterm attachment method of external transmitters in sea birds.





Migrating Seabird telemetry locations

Migrating Seabird telemetry locations (Public domain.)









Migration and Habitat Use by Seabirds in the Atlantic Flyway: Evaluation of Potential Impacts of Proposed Wind Farms

Demands for alternative energy are increasing and offshore wind projects are slated for several areas used by seabirds in coastal areas of the Atlantic flyway and in the Great Lakes. There is a need to identify the most important habitats for seabirds related to the construction of turbines to evaluate and minimize potential adverse effects on seabirds and their habitats. This will be a large scale, multi-year, collaborative project that will use satellite telemetry to document annual migration patterns and to assess risk to seabirds in specific areas in eastern North America where offshore wind projects are planned. Target species include black scoter, surf scoter, white-winged scoter, long-tailed duck, red throated loons and northern gannets.

An adult female surf scoter resting in the water

An adult female surf scoter resting in the water.  (Credit: Jonathan L Fiely, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Public domain.)





In-Air and Underwater Hearing Abilities of Seabirds

Underwater noise pollution from anthropogenic activities such as offshore energy construction, naval sonar activity, and commercial shipping can impact aquatic animals. Introduction of anthropogenic noise sources can mask communication, displace animals from preferred foraging or breeding habitat, disrupt predator-prey interactions, and cause hearing loss. Many seabirds spend a significant portion of their lives under the water, and most likely have sensory adaptations to facilitate their aquatic lifestyles. Sound may even be used as a tool to alert and deter these animals of dangerous areas. For instance, acoustic deterrent devices (“pingers”), have been used to reduce bycatch of marine mammals in gillnet fisheries. Despite mortalities of hundreds of thousands of seabirds a year in these fisheries operations, pingers have not been explored as an option to reduce seabirds bycatch. Without any measurements of underwater hearing abilities, it is impossible to explore the role of acoustics in the lives of seabirds.