Annual Seattle Update March 20th

Join us at Seattle’s Swedish Club, 1920 Dexter Ave N. , on Tuesday March 20, 2018 to hear about the eventful 2017 field season, the 43rd consecutive year of study of the Black Guillemot colony on Cooper Island, Alaska.   Doors open for a reception at 6 pm with a talk starting at 7 pm.    The Swedish Club has plenty of free parking  and is easily accessible by public transportation.

The summer of 2017 on Cooper was highlighted by a visit from Audubon magazine, with journalist, Hannah Waters, and photographer, Peter Mather. spending a week on the island, resulting in an excellent story on our work you can read here or by clicking on the image below.

Peter captured a number of remarkable images including the one at the top of this post and also one of a parent guillemot about to enter a nest case to feed a nestling. That image made the cover of the winter edition of Audubon.  The parent bird happens to be one of the oldest and most interesting individuals  on the island, originally banded as a nestling on Cooper Island in 1996 and breeding there since 2000.  

Our presentation on March 20th will include the history of this 21-year-old female and how she has  dealt with the major changes in the Arctic in the last two decades – and how her ability to successfully fledge a nestling in the ice-free summer of 2017 demonstrates the adaptation and  resilience Arctic animals will need to survive as the region continues to warm.

Our 44 years of studying the seabirds on Cooper Island continues to provide one of the most convincing and engaging stories of the biological impacts of a warming  Arctic.  Please join us at the Swedish Club on  March 20th to hear about the 2017 breeding season and our plans for reaching an unprecedented 50 years of monitoring a seabird colony in a  changing Arctic.

Although we hold this annual event mainly to update the public on our ongoing research and the recent field season, it is also our small non-profit’s main fundraising opportunity.  Should you not be able to attend the event but would like to assist us in our work please consider donating online.

The rate and evidence of climate change is increasing while governmental concern for the environment is decreasing.  Donor-supported climate change research and outreach has never been more important.


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Cooper Island Research Part of SENSEI: Sentinels of the Sea Ice

In 2015 Christophe Barbraud of the Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé began assisting us with the analysis of the four-decade demographic database we have obtained from the Cooper Island Black Guillemot colony.  Christophe is a highly respected avian demographer whose study species include the Snow Petrel, an ice-obligate Antarctic seabird, as well as a number of other seabirds.  We were fortunate to have him appreciate the potential and uniqueness of our long-term databases and show an interest in our work.

Our collaboration has led to the Cooper Island Black Guillemot study being part of the recently initiated project Sentinels of the Sea Ice (SENSEI) funded by the BNP Paribas Foundation. Their Climate Initiative program funds work that will improve our understanding of climate change, inform and mobilize citizens and, ultimately,  assist in political decisions and solutions.   While our participation in SENSEI will not assist us with the logistics of our field season and maintaining the long-term database, it will greatly facilitate data analysis and outreach efforts.

Comprised of 13 teams of researchers from six countries, the project will assess recent and ongoing responses of ice-associated seabirds and seals to changes in Arctic and Antarctic sea ice. The  “sentinel species”  being studied other than the Black Guillemot are the Thick-billed Murre, Black-legged Kittiwake and Hooded Seal in the Arctic and  Snow Petrel,  Adélie penguin, Weddell Seal and Elephant Seal in the Antarctic.  The project’s official website has background on the study species, researchers and plans – including development of an educational platform in 2018 that will promote the scientific and conservation aspects of the project and is being developed with Luc Jacquet, who directed March of the Penguins.

BNP Paribas webpage devoted to the project  provides background and why they chose to fund SENSEI as part of their effort to address climate change.  The site includes a video (above ) with a great animated cartoon Black Guillemot –  who seems unaware that some might find him less charismatic than the ever-popular penguin.

Last month I visited Christophe and Yan Ropert-Coudert, the project’s other Principal Investigator, at their research center in Chizé, France to discuss the  role of the Cooper Island research in the project and outline strategies for analyzing our 43 years of data.  Will be posting more about this exciting opportunity as our plans develop.


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Canary in the Climate Mine: Arctic Seabird’s Future Is on Thin Ice

Oceans Deeply  recently had a story about our work and the poor 2017 breeding season after an October interview with George Divoky.   Oceans Deeply is part of News Deeply  – an “award-winning new media company dedicated to covering the world’s most important and underreported stories.”

The story was written  by Jessica Leber and illustrated with photos by Joe McNally, who visited the island in 2001 to obtain images for Darcy Frey’s New York Times magazine article on the early effects of climate change being seen at the Black Guillemot colony.

jm 02Joe McNally/Getty Images

The Oceans Deeply story also contains information from the online video of George’s talk to the Oceans17 conference,  held by the Marine Technology Society and the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society, and conversations with our collaborators on the  SENSEI (SENtinels of SEa Ice) project looking at behavioral and demographic responses of seabirds and seals to changes in sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic.

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