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Examine temporal and spatial variation in trace metal concentrations in the western Arctic through the analysis of Black Guillemot feathers. Temporal trends being examined using study skins collected as early as 1897. Spatial variation examined in conjunction with carbon isotope signatures in feathers and by sampling both winter and summer plumages. Regional climate change monitored through examination of annual variation in breeding chronology and success in relation to snow and ice melt.
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.
Blubber samples from Alaska ringed seal (Phoca hispida) were collected for inclusion in the US National Biomonitoring Specimen Bank, as well as for immediate analysis as part of the contaminant monitoring component of the US National Marine Fisheries Service's Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program. The blubber samples were analyzed for organochlorine (OC) contaminants (e.g., PCB congeners, pesticides, DDTs). Results for ringed seals from the Alaska Arctic revealed low blubber concentrations of OC contaminants. Differences in contaminant concentrations among the Alaska seals may be explained by differences in feeding habits and migratory patterns; age or gender did not appear to account for the differences observed. The integration of real-time contaminant monitoring with specimen banking provides important baseline data that can be used to plan and manage banking activities. This includes identifying appropriate specimens that are useful in assessing temporal trends and increasing the utility of the banked samples in assessing chemical contaminant accumulation and relationships to biological effects.