Gull Population Biology
In the Gulf of Maine, populations of gulls have fluctuated dramatically during the past several decades, largely as a result of human activities. Gulls are apex predators in nearshore marine ecosystems and can significantly alter terrestrial habitats on breeding islands. Though gulls are a conspicuous presence in coastal New England, surprisingly little is known about their population biology.
The Gull Population Biology program is designed around a unique, long-term gull banding program initiated in 2004 on Appledore Island focused on Great Black-backed Gulls (GBBG) and Herring Gulls (HERG). Field-readable leg bands are used to facilitate resights of live birds both on and off the island, and during the breeding and non-breeding season. Thousands of GBBGs and HERGs have been banded and resighted by island researchers. The project receives numerous resights from private citizens who observe banded gulls in nearly every state on the Atlantic coast (and a few inland states). The data generated from this project is used to quantify adult survival rates, dispersal patterns by sex and age, age at first reproduction, and many other aspects of gull biology. During the program, researchers will:
- Band adult and juvenile gulls of both species under the guidance of mentors.
- Conduct routine, on-island resights of banded gulls and assign nest IDs to all banded birds.
- Map nests using GPS.
- Monitor the reproductive success of banded gulls in key study areas via daily nest checks (# eggs, # eggs hatched, dates of hatch, chick survival to 10 days, chick fledging).
- Record data on gull diet.
- Participate in public outreach on and off Appledore Island.
- Participate in weekly discussions and lectures as part of the larger Shoals Undergraduate Research Group cohort.
Dr. Sarah Courchesne (Professor, Northern Essex Community College)
Mary Everett (UMass Lowell)
SML Research Symposium: TBD
Includes room & board for 10 weeks, and roundtrip vessel transportation from Portsmouth, NH to Appledore Island. Researchers are responsible for their own transportation to/from Portsmouth, NH at the beginning and end of the program.