Seabird Health and Adaptive Management

Science Center Objects

Dr. Josh Adams and his science team at WERC study seabird health and support adaptive management by quantifying abundance patterns and behaviors associated with habitats at sea, where seabirds spend the overwhelming majority of their lives. Adams’s team also employs conservation science to support resource managers on land, where seabirds are obligated to nest. His group provides scientific analyses to help understand the efficacy of certain conservation practices intended to benefit the preservation and recovery of threatened seabird populations.

WERC scientist and Cassin's Auklet chick
USGS WERC scientist Emily (Emma) Kelsey and Cassin's Auklet (Ptychoramphus aleuticus) chick. (Credit: Max Czapanskiy, USGS WERC. Public domain.)

Seabirds are vulnerable both at sea and on land

Of primary importance is the need to understand basic population parameters and ecological requirements, including attendance patterns at colonies, diet, reproductive success, and baseline health parameters that affect species during the breeding season and survival of adults overwinter. Additionally, seabirds have habitats at sea and on land that are critical for foraging and nesting or roosting. Seabirds are also abundant, use a diverse variety of niches within marine ecosystems, and provide information on lower-trophic-level ecosystem forcing — as such, they often are recognized as excellent indicators of changing marine ecosystems and ecosystem health. It is important to apply science to better understand biological parameters, ecological requirements, and physical habitats for seabirds in order to support adaptive resource management.


Limiting factors for seabirds include a variety of threats

Depending on the species, seabirds are affected by glacial extent, predation by introduced mammals, alteration of prey abundances and fishing practices, introduced invasive vegetation, and habitat degradation. For example, recovery of vulnerable, threatened, or endangered seabirds including Hawaiian Petrel, Ashy Storm-Petrel, and Marbled and Kittlitz's Murrelet, requires effective methods to detect remote nesting habitats and distributions, determine trends in abundance, and protect or restore existing habitats on land and at sea.


Research objectives include:

  1. Assessing populations, trends, and vulnerability of marine birds at sea
  2. Quantifying phenology (timing of life history events) and breeding success among of marine birds
  3. Quantifying trends and efficacy of management actions to conserve, protect, and recover threatened and endangered seabird species
USGS WERC scientist Emily (Emma) Kelsey at False Klamath Rock
USGS WERC scientist Emily (Emma) Kelsey at False Klamath Rock doing seabird monitoring research. (Credit: Jonathan Felis, USGS WERC. Public domain.)

Recent Research:

Invasive species and habitat restoration

Population assessments