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Wanted: A Pair of Sea Legs

Posted by: amc02007 | May 18, 2010 | 1 Comment |

written by Ali Corley

This semester I joined Professor Karnovsky’s lab with the hope of being able to study birds and do field work in beautiful places.  I had just gotten really interested in bird ecology after a semester abroad in Costa Rica where I studied bird song in the sloping trails of the cloud forest.  So, when Prof K said we would be undertaking trips to the Channel Islands to study Xantus’s Murrelets, I was thrilled.  I had never been on a boat for more than a quick trip and I thought that sailing the high seas to collect data sounded adventurous.  However, moments after our first vessel, the Shearwater, left the harbor, I realized that I am very susceptible to sea sickness. 

From left to right, Prof. K., Laurie, Nik, Ali (me), and Darrell on the observation deck.

         Despite this realization, I really enjoyed the cruises to Santa Barbara Island.  Bird observations were actually very relaxing and it was cool to be able to see so many sea birds, especially murrelets (which are adorable).  Also, after many net tows, I became oddly obsessed with spraying down the net and I found it very rewarding to make the net completely clean.  For me, the nighttime bird captures were the most fun.  Sitting in a swerving zodiac in between Laurie at the wheel and Darrell leaning halfway over the water to catch a murrelet felt like some kind of crazy video game that should be called “The Adventures of the Field Biologist.”   I am still hugely impressed with Laurie and Darryl’s murrelet catching abilities. 

Me and Prof K banding Xantus' murrelets.

The best part of the trips is all the animals we get to see while we are there.  Never before in my life have I seen so many marine animals.  We saw a lot of dolphins, whales, sea lions, and of course, seabirds.  SBI itself is spectacular.  The sheer cliffs rising over the crashing surf, the thousands of birds that swarm the hills, and the many sea lions patrolling the waters around it all make the little island seem millions of miles away from cities and people and civilization.  And when I am on the upper deck, with the sun at my back and wind in my face while the boat is cruising around the island, I think to myself, that it is definitely worth it. 

Santa Barbara Island home of the Xantus' murrelet.

Filed under: Channel Islands
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I remember doing twitter counts for George back in 1976….washing and bathing in saltwater……HA!

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