Monitoring Beaufort Sea waterfowl and marine birds

Updated 2001-05-02

The overall project outlined in this proposal represents a series of interrelated studies designed to answer questions regarding the effects of disturbance on distribution and abundance of waterfowl and marine birds. The primary studies (i.e., aerial surveys) are directly related to the objectives identified in the Minerals Management Service (MMS) Statement-of-work regarding Monitoring Beaufort Sea Waterfowl and Marine Birds near the Prudhoe Bay Oil Field, Alaska. Additionally, we plan to include the ‘optional’ studies on eiders using off-shore barrier island habitats. Finally, we propose to conduct ground based studies designed to enhance and expand the interpretation of the aerial surveys. The specific objectives of this study are: 1. Monitor Long-tailed Duck and other species within and among industrial and control areas in a manner that will allow comparison with earlier aerial surveys using Johnson and Gazeys’ (1992) study design. a) Perform replicate aerial surveys of five previously established transects based on existing protocol (OCS-MMS 92-0060). b) Expand the area from original surveys to include near-shore areas along Beaufort Sea coastline between the original “industrial” (Jones-Return Islands) and “control” (Stockton-Maguire-Flaxman Islands) areas. c) Define the range of variation for area waterfowl and marine bird populations. Correlate this variation with environmental factors and oil and gas exploration, development, and production activities. 2. Expand aerial monitoring approximately 50 km offshore. Surveys will target Spectacled, Common and King eiders. The goal is to sample areas potentially impacted by oil spills from the Liberty, Northstar, and/or Sandpiper Units. 3. Develop a monitoring protocol for birds breeding on barrier islands, particularly Common Eiders. These data will be compared to historic data summarized by Schamel (1977) and Moitoret (1998). 4. Examine relationships between life-history parameters (e.g., fidelity, annual survival, productivity) and ranges of variation in Long-tailed Ducks and Common Eider distribution and abundance to enhance interpretation of cross-seasonal effects of disturbance. That is, the combination of aerial and ground based work has the potential to both document changes in abundance/distribution and describe those changes in terms of movements of marked individuals. Parameters will be examined in relation to disturbance using the two-tiered approach developed by Johnson and Gazey (1992). 5. Recommend cost-effective and feasible options for future monitoring programs to evaluate numbers and species of birds potentially impacted by oil spills involving ice-free and ice periods in both inshore and offshore waters.

This is not a National Implementation Plan (NIP) project
Comments and additional information:

Since initiation of the project, we have added several other objectives including: 1. Monitor health parameters of Long-tailed Ducks and Common Eiders. 2. Monitor post-breeding and migration movements of Common Eiders using satellite telemetry. 3. Evaluate the effects of underwater 3D seismic testing on molting Long-tailed Ducks 4. Conduct population genetic studies of Long-tailed Ducks.

Time frame

Project time span
1999 - 2003
Data collection
1999 - 2002
Data processing
2002 - 2003
Data reporting
2002 - 2003

Contact information

Contact person
Richard / B. Lanctot
U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Biological Science Center 1011 East Tudor Road, MS 701 Anchorage, AK 99503 USA
+1 907 786 3609
+1 907 786 3636

Parameters and Media

Parameter groups measured/observed/modelled
Biological effects
Heavy metals
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs)
Media sampled/studied/modelled
Terrestrial birds
Additional information or further specification of types of data / information collected, species / tissues / organs sampled, etc.

Aerial telemetry data archived with US Fish and Wildlife Service's Migratory Bird Management Group in Anchorage, Contact is Julian Fischer. Locations and habitat use of molting Long-tailed Ducks recorded with automated data collection computers and via triangulation telemetry towers. Typically, 120 birds are equipped with radio transmitters each year. Nest location, hatching success, and adult female survival recorded for Common Eiders breeding on barrier islands near Simpson Lagoon and Flaxman Island. Sixty Common Eider females are also equipped with radio transmitters and followed to determine brood survival. Blood health parameters taken on Long-tailed Ducks, data archived at US Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Satellite data archived at contact office and managed by Dr. Margaret Petersen.


Regions studied
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs)
Other areas
Barrier islands north of Prudhoe Bay Oil Field

Data availability

Are data archived or planned to be archived at an AMAP Thematic Data Centre?
If no (or only part of data are reported to a TDC), where and how are (other) data stored?
Data stored in various windows based programs such as Excel and Dbase 5.7. Particular data sets are stored as follows: aerial survey - US Fish and Wildlife Service, Migratory Bird Management Long-tailed Duck molting ecology - US Geological Survey, Alaska Biological Science Center Common Eider breeding ecology - US Geological Survey, Alaska Biological Science Center Blood health parameters - US Geological Survey, National Wildlife Health Center Satellite telemetry of Common Eiders - US Geological Survey, Alaska Biological Science Center Contact Rick Lanctot for accessing this information. Data will be made available as deemed necessary (especially prior to publication).
References to key publications (or planned publications) and data reports
See latest annual report at:
Samples/specimens archived in specimen banks?
Specimen banking information

Blood health samples stored at National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Contact Chris Franson.

Methods & Procedures

Procedures and methodology used for, e.g., sampling and sample storage, sample pretreatment, extraction and analysis, including which laboratories are involved, references to methods employed, etc.

Contact Chris Franson for details related to blood health parameters.

Additional Information

Is this a bi- AND multi-lateral project (i.e. a project involving cooperation between different countries)?
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