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Document Type

Open Access

Degree Program

Environmental Conservation

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded

2012

Month Degree Awarded

February

Keywords

Brachyramphus brevirostris, Kittlitz’s Murrelet, population size, seabird habitat use, temperature-depth profile, foraging ecology

Abstract

During the summer of 2008 and 2009, we studied the ecology of the Kittlitz’s Murrelet (Brachyramphus brevirostris), a small diving seabird and candidate for the U.S. Endangered Species List, in Prince William Sound (PWS), Alaska. At-sea survey data suggests that the population significantly increased from 2001 to 2009, however there is limited evidence of reproductive success. Habitat use models showed individuals were observed in shallower waters, closer to glaciers, the shoreline, and further from moraines than the available habitat during the daytime. Finer extent sampling from 2008 suggests temperature-depth profiles also influence Kittlitz’s Murrelet daytime habitat use. The associations between Kittlitz’s Murrelets and water column characteristics are likely an effect of prey availability. Stable isotope work in 2009 suggests birds were generalist foragers prior to the breeding season, becoming more specialized following the breeding season. This specialization may have been a response to strict foraging constraints during the flightless fall molt. Time budgets of radio-tagged individuals suggest birds may have been responding to ephemeral prey concentrations, and working near their maximum energetic limits. Remote monitoring of radio-tagged individuals showed birds left the glacial fjord system during the nighttime, possibly spending these hours near gillnet fishing areas, suggesting a new possible area of concern in evaluating potential threats to Kittlitz’s Murrelet populations.

First Advisor

Curtice R. Griffin

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