For wild animals, access to food can dictate many aspects of life, from developmental rate and behavior to strategies for reproduction and survival. I will discuss research conducted at a unique field station in the middle of the Gulf of Alaska, where biologists from around the world converge to study the effects of food availability on an unusual population of feisty seabirds called black-legged kittiwakes. Kittiwakes are at the top of the marine food chain, and usually nest on hard-to-reach cliff faces. A cleverly converted cold war radar tower at this field site offers unprecedented access to breeding birds for observational and experimental studies of all kinds. It is also the home of an extraordinary long-term food supplementation study that helps shed light on the consequences of climate fluctuations in the marine ecosystem.
I will share photos and footage of the birds and this site while discussing some highlights of my research on the effects of food availability and physiological stress on gene expression, physiology and behavior. I will also offer perspective on the techniques and lifestyle associated with conducting field work on seabirds in remote field camps (not for the hygienically squeamish!).
Alaska, kittiwakes, seabirds, field station research, biology, climate