We had a great time celebrating the end of the semester. Gibson, the parakeet, was in heaven with a roomful of bird lovers!
Kristina’12 who studied Cassin’s auklet diving behavior for her senior thesis, has continued to pursue her passion for birds and remote islands after she graduated. She spends her summers working with the Puffin Project on islands off the coast of Maine and lately has been studying passerines with the Biodiversity Research Institute.
Last Sunday Neha’14 came in from Costa Rica, Jamie’14 from La Jolla, Sophie’14 from Los Angeles, and local alums Rose’14, Nai’14, joined seniors Ramon’15 and Dakota’15 and Prof. Karnovsky for breakfast! It was so great to hear about explosive frog breeding events, catching and tagging sharks, writing about biodiversity, working for social justice, building ponds and infusing a sauna with local herbs, making documentary films and applying for international fellowships to do conservation work!
Last week students shared their summer research at the Pomona College Summer Undergraduate Research Poster Session. Nicole’15 shared her work creating computer programs to analyze diving data in her poster, “Automating the Analysis of Cassin’s Auklet Diving Patterns Using Time-Depth Recorders and Python Programming.” Ramon’15 presented his poster on the study he carried out at Sea Ranch this summer, “The Bigger the Beak, The Faster You Seek: Foraging Time and Offspring Provisioning Among Pelagic Cormorants.” Alumna Sophie’14 returned to present her findings on the expansion of Common Murres on Gualala Point Island in her poster, “Common Murres, Cormorants, and Citizen Science; Sharing Space on Gualala Point Island.”
Dakota’15 is spending her summer at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Colorado on an REU grant (Research Experience for Undergraduates).
Charlotte Dohrn’13 who wrote her senior thesis with me is following her passion for sustainable fisheries and is at the UW Fisheries Research Institute field camp on Lake Aleknagik, AK helping to collect data on the run size and population structure of the sockeye salmon runs. She writes, “We’ve been counting the salmon (alive, senesced, female, male, bear kill, etc.) in the streams, taking otoliths, seining for resident fish, and collecting bear hair samples for genetic analysis.”
So starts my 6th week working on my programming project. I’m currently working on putting my programs together so that whole files of data can be analyzed automatically when imputed into the interface I’ll be designing later this summer. The challenge is finding patterns in the file that allow the program to understand when a set of data is starting and ending so that it can be analyzed but the correct other program.
Last week I took a break from programming to create and present a poster on my project at a HHMI conference at Harvey Mudd. It was great to see what other people around me are working on and to meet some of the other people on campus as well as see enthusiasm for my project!
Here are a few more updates from recent grads. Nikki’13 who worked on the murrelet project counting zooplankton, spent the last year having all sorts of tropical wildlife adventures and is off to veterinary school in the fall! You can read about her amazing year here:
Rose’14 was a student in my Aquatic Ecology class. She is working as a native plants landscaper and climbed Mt. Whitney this summer! Before Jamie’14 went to Sea Ranch, he and Claire’14 visited Laura’14 in Alaska!
Neha’14, who worked on the video analysis of nesting murrelets is studying red eyed tree frogs in Costa Rica! She is with Cassandra’14 who worked on the Antarctic otolith project.
Hi all! I’m Nicole, a rising Pomona fourth year, and this summer I’m working with data on the diving patterns of Cassin’s auklets in the family Alcidae. These sea faring birds budget their energy and time depending on prey availability, and the feeding needs of themselves and their chicks. Auklets also demonstrate different types of dives: more ‘V’ shaped dives tend to be for finding pockets of prey underwater, while more ‘U’ shaped dives are more for actual feeding. These data were taken by gluing small Time-Depth Recorders (TDR’s) on the body feathers of individual auklets and recording temperature and pressure on preset intervals as the birds go about their daily routines.
Other projects have looked at different aspects of these data and my job is to process the most recent years. Three weeks into my ten week project, I’ve so far been writing python programs that will take a file of data from an individual bird and separate the data points into dive bouts made up of dives as well as calculating different attributes. One of these attributes is how U-shaped a dive is, which I calculated by determining what percentage of the data points are in the lowest 25% of the dive depth. Over the next few weeks I’ll be developing an interface for these programs and can then decide what aspect of these birds’ behavior I’m most interested in analyzing for my thesis!
Pigeon guillemots (PIGUs) are unquestionably the most adorable of all the birds we study here at Sea Ranch. And until recently, we didn’t get to spend that much time observing them. But for the past couple of weeks we’ve been doing three hour nest surveys every other day, getting an idea of how often adults bring food back for their chicks, and what exactly they’re bringing. To introduce you to these adorable birds, I’ve drawn a comic. This is how a typical feeding event goes:
Okay, so they don’t actually hit the rocks around the nest, but they do often miss completely. We had one bird do this five time before successfully entering the nest to feed it’s chicks. Pretty amusing to watch! The birds are mostly bringing back sculpins, with the occasional larger, silvery fish (possibly sand lance?) and even one squid/octopus (it was pretty droopy and hard to identify). We’re watching two nests and so far only one is bringing food back. We can’t see into the nests, but we’re guessing, based on the comings and goings of the adults, that there might be eggs in the as-of-yet-unfed nest. So perhaps we will have more bird antics to update you with soon.
In other news, one of our pelagic cormorant nests fledged today! Two chicks were still in the nest, but the other two were swimming around in the water below, and occasionally taking brief test flights. The babies are growing up!
It’s now Jamie and Sophie here in Sea Ranch. A few days ago, an osprey that had recently caught a fish landed near our observation point, and we managed to get a mediocre phone video through our scope. Check it out!
Other than that, the birds are doing well (and the chicks are getting huge!)
Check back in tomorrow for an illustrated update about some new data we’re collecting. It’s adorable, we promise.