40th Anniversary Celebration
 March 24th

FCI 40th Anniversary1975 was the inaugural year for a number of institutions that have stood the test of time and become part of our culture. Saturday Night Live and Wheel of Fortune both debuted that year while a startup named Microsoft was founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen.

The Arab oil embargo of 1973-1974 had increased the price of oil almost fourfold and the U.S. was busy considering ways it could become less dependent on foreign oil – including drilling in the offshore regions of Alaska.

As part of the environmental assessments done in anticipation of offshore oil development in arctic Alaska, a study of the seabirds breeding in the Beaufort Sea on Cooper Island was conducted in the summer of 1975.  While it was anticipated the work on Cooper Island might go on as long as three years – to provide some indication of annual variability in breeding biology – there was no way of knowing that the 1975 field season would be the first year of what has become a continuous 40-year study of an arctic seabird, the Black Guillemot.  Climate change and global warming were issues that were not even considered when “baseline assessments” of the marine environment were conducted in 1975.   But because George Divoky continued the study well after federal funding ended, the Cooper Island data set has provided documentation of how the warming globe has affected the snow and ice habitats of northern Alaska and the Black Guillemots’ and polar bears’ struggles to survive in their rapidly melting environment.

In 2015 Friends of Cooper Island is celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the start of this unprecedented data set.  While we always have an annual update and fundraiser in Seattle, this year will be special – both because we are starting our fifth decade of research on the island and also because the real and potential threats to the seabirds on Cooper Island and the entire Arctic have never been greater.

Please join us on March 24, 2015 at Seattle’s Town Hall for a reception, talk and celebration marking this major milestone for both our nonprofit organization and for arctic biology.  We plan to both inform and entertain those who attend with stories of our first four decades and our plans to continue the study into the future so that we can continue to monitor Black Guillemots and their warming and developing Arctic.

Doors open at 5:30 with a reception until the presentation at 7:00. Contact us at info@cooperisland.org with any questions.

Admission is free and tax-exempt donations to Friends of Cooper Island, a 501(c)3, are welcome.

 Directions to Town Hall and parking information are available at the links below.

THS-logo-color-black-boxTown Hall Seattle, 1119 8th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98101


Cooper Island on PBS in 2003 – Alan Alda, Scientific Americian Frontiers


In 2003 when the Black Guillemots on Cooper Island first started eating large numbers of sculpin in place of the preferred prey of Arctic cod, the PBS Scientific American Frontiers series paid me a  visit in August. Their work in Alaska that summer resulted in an hour-long show on climate change issues in the state which led off with the Cooper Island segment.  That part of the program can be viewed by clicking on the above image or here.

During the short one-day visit it was gray and rainy for much of the time but they were able to get a surprising amount of good video – including a guillemot chick rejecting a sculpin and eating an Arctic cod and a puffin chasing off a guillemot. This was the first year I had the cabin on the island and they had Barrow Brower, who hauled the cabin out from town the previous winter, bring them out to the island by boat.

I do appreciate hearing the person who played “Hawkeye Pierce” in the TV version of M*A*S*H* explain what was going on with the guillemots on Cooper Island.  Like Alda, the Cooper Island Black Guillemot colony has a connection with the Korean War.  The wooden boxes that provided nesting cavities for guillemots on  Cooper originally contained orndnance intended for Korea.  After that war ended in 1954 it was brought out to Cooper Island for peacetime military exercises.

Cooper Island on Public Radio’s Science Friday

Had the opportunity to be on Science Friday on public radio last week discussing how relatively minor shifts in temperatures in the Arctic can cause major disruptions and shifts in the region’s habitats.

You can listen to the discussion at this link.

Habitats Shift As Arctic Temps Creep Above Freezing

Cheryl Rosa of the United States Arctic Research Commission (USARC) was also on the show and provided details  on a number of issues relating to warming-induced changes in both marine and terrestrial  ecosystems.  While now  Deputy Director of USARC, Cheryl used to be with the North Slope Borough’s Department of Wildlife Management, where she used her background as a veterinarian to examine Arctic wildlife, including performing a necropsy  on a polar bear that had starved on the sea ice adjacent to Cooper Island.

Science Friday also had an interview with a city council member from Kivalina,  a coastal village experiencing major erosion due to melting permafrost and increasing waves.

Friends of Cooper Island