Seasonal Movement Ecology and Habitat Preferences of Crested Auklets (Aethia cristatella) Originating from the Aleutian Islands, AK
Climate change and development are modifying our oceans at an alarming rate, especially in northern circumpolar waters. To understand the impact of these changes on marine species, it is important that we understand basics about their ecology like their oceanic distributions and marine habitat use. Seabirds spend the majority of their life at sea only coming to land to breed, yet for most, little is known about their distributions outside of the breeding season. The Crested auklet (Aethea cristatella) is one of these species. It is a small, abundant seabird that breeds on islands and coastlines along the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering Sea Outside of the breeding season, Crested auklets have been observed from ship-based surveys as far north as Barrow, AK, in the Bering Strait and around St. Laurence Island, as far east as the eastern Aleutian Islands, and as far west as the coastal areas around the Sea of Okhotsk. Advances in tracking technology now provide the opportunity to track individual birds for long periods of time. The recent miniaturization of geolocators (devices that continuously measure and log sunlight intensity) has opened the gate to researching the distributions and marine habitats of smaller seabirds such as the Crested auklet. My research project has three main objectives: (1) to quantify the movement patterns of adult Crested Auklets (Aethia cristatella) outside of the breeding season and compare inter-colony differences in timing, routes and wintering areas between birds; (2) to test the potential effects of geolocators on fledging success, parental provisioning, nest site fidelity and body condition; (3) to describe the marine habitat preferences of Crested Auklets by developing a model using the tracking data in combination with remotely sensed oceanographic data. I will deploy geolocators on adult Crested Auklets at two large colonies, Gareloi and Buldir Islands (in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska), during the breeding season and retrieve them 1 year later. To test for deleterious effects on survival and behaviour, I will compare the fledging success, chick growth, adult return rate and body condition in the tagged group of Auklets to an untagged control group. Once the devices are retrieved, and a time series of positions are determined for each individual, inter-colony differences in wintering areas and timing of migration will be explored and important nonbreeding hot spots will be identified. To determine marine habitat preferences, I will develop a predictive resource selection model. A set of oceanographic variables which are related to the spatial distribution of the animals tracked (ex. Chlorophyll-a concentrations, bathymetry, sea ice cover, sea surface temperature) will be identified and serve as predictor variables in the model. The results of this project will have profound implications for our understanding of the link between seabird distribution and oceanic processes while providing a major advance in the risk assessment of this species.
30 Nov -0001
Natural Science And Engineering Research Board, North Pacific Research Board, Northern Scientific Training Program (Canadian Polar Commission), Program For Northern Mobility (Memorial Univers
Mapping & Surveys
Strategic Research Theme
Environment, Energy and Natural Resources
Oceans, Fisheries and Aquaculture