Research at Yaquina Head

Yaquina Head, being a beautiful natural area, gets a great deal of attention. Not just from visitors who enjoy a nice a view and outdoor experience but from scientists as well. A lot of research occurs at Yaquina Head and now I have the opportunity to be a part of it! This week I began working with Rob Suryan, a professor and senior researcher at Oregon State University (OSU) and Cheryl Horton, a graduate student at OSU. Their field research is focused on avian ecology, this relates with my research on  common murres, a colonial nesting seabird. Annually, thousands of common murres nest on the islands right outside Yaquina Head in the spring.  These birds have been subject to increasing predation and disturbance at breeding sites along the Pacific coast. Cheryl’s thesis focuses on bald eagle predation and disturbance on the common murres and she studies how the meta-population is responding. In May we will begin to monitor the reproductive success of murres as they begin nesting on the islands. We will monitor egg laying, egg predation, eggs hatching, parent-to-chick- feeding, chick fledging, chick predation, and more. This is all very exciting to me and I am so happy to participate in this study which is allowing me to gain more research and lab experience.

There are three different protocols we will follow while collecting data and we went over all the details last week. We prepared the field notebooks and tried out the equipment out in the field. Cheryl and I had beautiful weather; hundreds of murres were on the islands and thousands in the water. This was good because I got oriented with the different plots and Cheryl and I practiced being on cue on different observations. While in the field we also took the time to do some other sea bird identification which was very helpful  since there are other seabirds that look a lot like the common murres. This was also helpful because in just a few weeks I will be leading a Yaquina Head bilingual bird walk at my International Migratory Bird Day event.

Common murres on Colony Rock outside Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area.

Common murres on Colony Rock outside Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area.

Next week, I will be doing lab work with Cheryl, going back through last year’s data and aerial photographs to make sense of the information. Cheryl gave me a lot of readings on historic research on the common murres, other research done out of Yaquina head, and Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon predation.

Not only have I been getting very familiar with avian ecology research, but I have also been networking. I attended donut and coffee hour on Tuesday at The Hatfield Marine Science Center, where all OSU labs are located. There, I met a lot of other graduate students and people who work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  It was interesting to hear about all the marine science related research that is going on here in Newport and it made me reflect on what I could do for graduate school.

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