Posts tagged ‘nyc audubon’

NYC Audubon Helps Researchers Answer Questions about Local Harbor Seal Populations

Psychologists and seal behavior researchers Dr. Kevin Woo and Dr. Kristy Biolsi and their students will be attending our Winter Seals and Waterbirds tours, starting on January 12, as part of their research on wintering harbor seals in the New York City area:

 

 

Harbor Seals © Mike Baird (Flickr Creative Commons License)

Harbor Seals © Mike Baird (Flickr Creative Commons License)

Since the European colonization of New York City, the habitat of the five boroughs has been transformed into a rather unique ecological niche. Urbanization has created local challenges to our wildlife, and some of our species have managed to adapt to these artificial changes. One species, the harbor seal (Phoca vitulina), was once seen easily along the foreshores of the northeast, which included New York City. However, populations disappeared for nearly a century before returning to the area a couple of decades ago. The shift in demographics prompts a singularly important question: Why are they back?
 

 
Three years ago, we decided to tackle this complex question. Our goals are to: 1) better understand why seals are coming back to New York City, 2) identify the ecological conditions that enable the success of returning populations, 3) discover how they are able to cope with man-made changes, and 4) consider the impacts of the urban environment on behavioral interactions, such as communication. Along with our undergraduate research students, we have watched harbor seals along the waterfront in New York City over the last three field seasons using non-invasive naturalistic observations. As harbor seals are typically found here from mid-October to early-April, we focused our efforts on select land-based locations in Brooklyn and the Bronx, while fielding reports of sightings in Jamaica Bay, and the Rockaways in Queens. Initially, we aim to capture demographic and atmospheric data to monitor relative populations at each location. Once we have a fairly decent picture of the local seal population, we will then start more comprehensive behavioral observations, such as responses to environmental noise–both visual and auditory.

 

 

Indeed, a bigger part of our research is to consider a conservation and education perspective. Marine mammal populations all over the world were affected historically by commercial hunting. Continue reading ‘NYC Audubon Helps Researchers Answer Questions about Local Harbor Seal Populations’ »

Field Reports: Yankee, Lima, and Tango

A common tern chick being banded. Photo © Annie Barry

A common tern chick being banded. Photo © Annie Barry

Director of Conservation and Science Susan Elbin reports on exciting work on Governor’s Island:

 

Yankee, Lima, and Tango: Regular visitors to Governor’s Island may know that these are names of three piers on the southern shore of Governor’s Island, each named for the letter that represents their shape: Y, L, and T.  Regular visitors may notknow, however, that these piers are now the sites of three nesting areas (colonies) for common terns!

 

This just hatched common tern chick is well camouflaged in its nest of shells, rocks, wood, and bones. Photo © Annie Barry

This just hatched common tern chick is well camouflaged in its nest of shells, rocks, wood, and bones. Photo © Annie Barry

The nesting population has been growing for the past several years, and this year our team from NYC Audubon, the National Park Service, the Trust for Governors Island, Earth Matter, the Harbor School, and the LiRo/Turner group counted 152 nests at the end of June: 80 on Yankee, 62 on Tango, and 10 on Lima. To help the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and NYC Audubon learn more about the terns, which are listed as a threatened species in New York State, we banded 100 chicks and 10 adults.  We look forward to continued work monitoring this new colony.