Alaska's coastal and offshore waters provide habitat for upwards of 100 million seabirds from 66 species. Seabirds take a variety of prey from the ocean, including krill, small fish, and squid. Suitable nest sites and oceanic prey are important natural factors controlling the distribution and abundance of seabirds. Seabirds are also vulnerable to human impacts from pollution (oil, heavy metals, organochlorines), commercial fisheries (by-catch, competition for fish), habitat destruction (e.g., logging of coastal forests), and global warming (via changes in food webs, modification of breeding habitat). Because seabirds can be observed readily at colonies and at sea, they serve as useful indicators of change in the marine environment— whether caused by humans or resulting from natural factors. For these reasons, marine bird research has always been a vital part of the Department of the Interior mission in Alaska and the North Pacific. We study population dynamics, breeding biology, and feeding ecology of a variety seabird species, including threatened and endangered species. We use a multidisciplinary approach that incorporates an understanding of marine habitat and food web interactions to better understand marine bird distribution and abundance. This website highlights some of the research conducted by the Marine Bird Ecology Project at the Alaska Science Center.
North Pacific Pelagic Seabird Database
Although we can see seabirds feeding in the surface waters of Prince William Sound, Alaska, what draws them there is often a mystery. This video shows a flock of glaucous-wing gulls feeding on a school of capelin, which are a cold water forage fish that spawns on sandy beaches during summer. Below the capelin is a swarm of zooplankton that was carried into fjords and bays through ocean currents and serves as food for these small fish. [video wmv file 9.16 mb] [for Mac users mp4 file 20.3 mb]