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Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Environmental Conservation

Year Degree Awarded

2016

Month Degree Awarded

September

First Advisor

Curtice R. Griffin

Second Advisor

Paul R. Sievert

Third Advisor

Peter W.C. Paton

Fourth Advisor

Ramakrishna Janaswamy

Subject Categories

Other Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Abstract

Information on offshore movements of high priority bird species is needed for monitoring and managing adverse effects of offshore wind energy development in the western North Atlantic Ocean. This information is particularly important at night and during periods of inclement weather when risks of collision with offshore wind turbines may be elevated. For small-bodied avian taxa, technologies for monitoring movements of individually-marked birds are limited since satellite-based devices are still too heavy (> 5 g) for use on birds weighing < 150 g. In this dissertation, I evaluate the use of light-weight (1 to 1.5 g) digital VHF transmitters and a network of automated radio telemetry stations for tracking shorebirds and seabirds in offshore areas. In Chapter One, I compare digital VHF telemetry with satellite telemetry for tracking a shorebird, the American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus), at nesting areas in coastal Massachusetts. In Chapter Two, I evaluate possible adverse effects and retention time of using a glue and suture method for attaching digital VHF transmitters to the inter-scapular region of Common Terns (Sterna hirundo), a small-bodied seabird. In Chapter Three, I analyze data on the movements of digital VHF-tagged Common Terns and Arctic terns (Sterna paradisaea) from four colonies throughout the western North Atlantic Ocean to assess the utility of this technology for tracking birds at regional scales. In Chapter Four, I examine movements of digital VHF-tagged Common Terns from two colonies in southern New England shelf region of the U.S. Atlantic relative to Wind Energy Areas in state and federal waters. The aim of this chapter is to evaluate the use digital VHF telemetry for tracking terns across offshore Wind Energy Areas and to relate offshore movement events to temporal (time of day, calendar date), atmospheric (wind speed, precipitation rate, visibility) and demographic (sex, nesting colony) covariates associated with assessments of collision risk. Through these studies, I evaluate the safety and effectiveness of using digital VHF transmitter technology on non-Endangered Species Act listed shorebird and seabirds with the aim of informing future studies on two species of high conservation concern, the federally threatened Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) and the federally endangered Roseate Tern (Sterna dougallii).

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