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Project Information

Title: Long-term Monitoring of Marine Bird Abundance and Habitat Associations during Fall and Winter in Prince William Sound

Project Year and Number: 2019: 19120114-E

Other Fiscal Years and Numbers for this Project: None

Principal Investigator (PI): Mary Anne Bishop, Prince William Sound Science Center

Assisting Personnel: None

Research Location:

Restoration Category: Monitoring

Injured Resources Addressed: Barrow's Goldeneye , Black Oystercatchers , Common Loons , Common Murres , Cormorants , Harlequin Ducks , Kittlitz's Murrelets , Marbled Murrelets , Pigeon Guillemot , Recreation & Tourism

Abstract: The fall-winter marine bird surveys in Prince William Sound (PWS) will continue to build upon an 11-year time series (2007-2018) of marine bird abundance and habitat associations. Marine bird surveys occur onboard research vessels conducting oceanographic, fisheries, or marine mammal surveys, thereby increasing opportunities for cross-project collaboration and reducing project costs. Our September marine bird surveys are integrated with Gulf Watch Alaska forage fish assessments of prey availability and humpback whale prey consumption and population monitoring with all three projects sharing logistics, timing, and location of sampling. These integrated surveys allow us to estimate forage biomass at the same locations in which marine birds and humpback whales are feeding, thereby providing comparable information on both predator density and prey availability. We use established protocols employed by all other Gulf Watch Alaska marine bird survey efforts (Kachemak Bay/Cook Inlet, Seward Line/Gulf of Alaska, PWS summer).

Of the marine birds that overwinter in PWS, nine species were initially injured by the Exxon Valdez oil spill, including three species that have not yet recovered or their recovery status is unknown (pigeon guillemot, marbled murrelet, and Kittlitz’s murrelet). Fall through winter are critical periods for survival as food tends to be relatively scarce or inaccessible, the climate more extreme, light levels and day length reduced, and water temperatures colder. By monitoring marine birds during fall and winter we will improve our predictive models of species abundance and distribution across PWS in relation to biological and physical environmental factors. Our long-term monitoring has shown that the nonbreeding season cannot be characterized as a single time period when describing marine bird distribution and suggests that multiple surveys are required to quantify wintering populations and understand changes in marine bird distribution.

The only change to the FY19 work plan is a request for charter vessel funding for November and March surveys. These surveys had relied on fishery survey vessels of opportunity that are no longer funded. The November and March surveys were originally conducted in collaboration with the Herring Research and Monitoring program, then NOAA chartered vessels in FY17-18. New dedicated survey funding would allow us to continue identifying shifts in the winter marine bird community of PWS as well as their potential impact on juvenile herring.

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Proposal: View PDF (605 KB)

Funding Recommendations: View

Funding Detail For: 2019

Quarterly Project Tasks For: 2019

Annual Report: 2019: Due 03/01/2020

Final Report: Draft Final Report Due 4/15/20

Publications from this Project: None Available