Sunday, August 1, 2010

Student Profile: Emily Wilson

While everyone else on the cruise is looking below the water, Conor Ryan and I are watching for seabirds and whales up at the surface! We’re conducting surveys as volunteers for the Canadian Wildlife Service. I’m also a CHONe student working with Bill Montevecchi at Memorial University of Newfoundland, looking at seabird biodiversity and habitat in the Gulf of Maine. The CWS has been conducting seabird surveys in Atlantic Canada since 2006, and they also have data from surveys from the 1970s to 1990s along the coast of North America which can make for great comparisons over time.

Conor & I work up in the bridge counting the birds, whales and dolphins (and the occasional tuna or ocean sunfish) and record our findings in a database along with our GPS location, weather & sea conditions, and any interesting behaviours (feeding frenzies, squabbles over food, or relaxing on a log floating by). We can use these data to learn how seabird communities have changed over time, and how and where seabirds spend the bulk of their lives out at sea. I’m also using satellite data of habitat features to figure out why some areas are such “hotspots” while others are empty of birds and whales.
All this time staring out at sea makes for some beautiful sights (like a fin whale 100 meters away!) & great pictures, and Conor has a few to share with you!