Alaska Science Center

Seabirds and Forage Fish Ecology Program

The goal of this research is to identify the causes of population change in seabirds. We seek to characterize the biological responses of marine birds to fluctuations in forage fish abundance, and measure the effects of environmental variability and human disturbance on marine systems.


The Department of the Interior has responsibility for all marine birds in the U.S., and >95% of these reside in Alaska and the North Pacific. Essential to the conservation and management of seabirds are measures of population status and trends, and some understanding of how natural and anthropogenic factors influence population biology. For the latter, we must characterize the response of seabirds to changes in oceanography and marine climate, and resulting fluctuations in prey abundance, distribution and quality. Long-term tasks that form the core of the USGS Alaska Science Center forage fish, seabird and ecosystem studies include compilation and analyses of data on the pelagic distribution of marine birds in the North Pacific relative to biological oceanography and changes in climate; development of methods for censusing and monitoring trends in seabird populations on land and at sea; studies of oceanography, plankton, forage fish and seabirds around major seabird colonies in Alaska; focused studies of rare, threatened or endangered seabirds; and measuring the impact of human-related sources of mortality on seabirds, including subsistence harvest, oil pollution, vessel disturbance, and by-catch in fishing gear.
Title Type
Pelagic Forage Fish Distribution Abundance and Body ConditionData
Marine ecology near Tufted Puffin colonies across the Aleutian Archipelago and Alaska Peninsula, 2012-2014Data
Biogeochemical Subsidies from Glacier Runoff into Alaska Coastal Marine Food Webs, Gulf of Alaska, 2012-2013Data
User's Guide to the North Pacific Pelagic Seabird Database 2.0Publication
North Pacific Pelagic Seabird Database, Ver. 2.0Data
Seabirds, Forage Fish, and Marine Ecology Project Website


Piatt, John F., 360.774.0516

Status: onGoing
Start Year: 2002
End Year:

Project Sites

FWS - Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge
FWS - Alaska Region

USGS Mission Area and Program
EcosystemsFisheries Program
EcosystemsWildlife Program

Major Initiatives
FWS - Quick Response Program
FWS - Science Support Program
LCC - Aleutian and Bering Sea Islands Landscape Conservation Cooperative
USGS - Marine and Freshwater Ecology