This past August, Dr. Cohen, post-doc Abby Darrah, and M.S. student Melissa Althouse attended the 39th annual Waterbirds Society meeting, held on the beautiful campus of the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine. The meeting included special sessions on oystercatchers and cormorants, and included a new session on passerines, which lab member Alison Kocek helped initiate. Abby presented a poster on her current plover work: “Decision support population modeling for Atlantic Coast Piping Plover recovery: 2015 field season”. She also gave a talk on her previous postdoctoral work during the Aquatic Passerines symposium – “Effects of tamarisk (Tamarisk spp) biocontrol and removal on riparian breeding bird species of the Colorado Plateau”. Melissa drove up from her field sites on Cape Cod to give a talk on her master’s research: “Quantifying the effects of disturbance on staging Roseate Terns (Sterna dougalli) on the Cape Cod National Seashore” as part of a half-day symposium on avian behavior and conservation. Friday, a field trip day, was spent on a pelagic trip offered to participants by Bar Harbor Whale Watch. The boat cruised by several near-shore islands as well as Mt. Desert Rock, located 22 miles offshore. It was a fantastic trip, and highlights included numerous Wilson’s Storm-Petrels, Great Shearwaters, several species of skuas and jaegers, many Ocean Sunfish, and a porbeagle shark basking near the ocean surface next to the boat. The meeting wrapped up with a lobster banquet and the society’s traditional evening social and swim; Abby joined the many Waterbirds members brave enough to jump into the 55-degree waters of Frenchman Bay.
In September, Abby and Research Associate Michelle Stantial attended the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Group meeting, as well as the pre-conference workshop on Piping Plover life cycle linkages. The meeting was held on the eastern shore of Virginia, at the Chincoteague Bay Field Station. To foster international collaboration, participants could give presentations in either English or Spanish, with translators in every room to provide translations in real-time which were broadcast into headsets available for participants. Michelle presented a poster based on her M.S. work titled “Automated telemetry for monitoring nocturnal behavior of breeding Piping Plovers on the Atlantic Coast”. Abby gave a presentation on her current work, titled “Decision support population modeling for Atlantic Coast Piping Plover recovery” in the Decision Analysis symposium. One morning plenary, given by Ted Simons on American Oystercatcher ecology, was held at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, and there were early morning field trips to the refuge, which coincided well with fall songbird migration.
M.S. student Melissa Althouse recently finished up her second field season studying staging Roseate Terns on Cape Cod, MA. Melissa reports a successful field season, and shares a few highlights and photos.
"We had a very eventful season. On top of exceeding my expectations in the amount of data collected, we managed to witness a great white shark attacking a seal off the coast of Monomoy NWR, get stranded in a hurricane with 72mph winds, see all the whales we could possibly wish for, watch a flock of over 8,000 shearwaters feeding, and make sure that EVERYONE on the team had some wonderful additions to their life-lists. I was very fortunate to have an amazing team to work with for my last field season. I met a lot of great people out on the beach, and will surely be missing Cape Cod next summer!"
Melissa's work involves patiently watching mixed flocks of staging terns at several sites around Cape Cod and recording information about their behavior and their responses to potential sources of disturbance, like people, boats, and predators. Melissa's M.S. project is focused primarily on endangered Roseate Terns, but other species such as Common Terns, Least Terns, and Royal Terns (among others) stage with Roseate Terns and are part of her observations. Melissa and her field crew also resight color banded Roseate Terns as part of a larger effort to collect information about their demographics and movements.
SUNY ESF's portion of the Roseate Tern work is part of a larger research study with partners and cooperators from the Karpanty Lab at Virginia Tech, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Cape Cod National Seashore, Mass Audubon, and Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. We also owe a special thank you to the field technicians that have worked on the disturbance project- Serina Brady, Loren Gallo, Jenna Correia, and Jenna May.