Lauren Scopel

Causes and Efects of Arctic Tern Colony Failure at Machias Seal Island, New Brunswick

PhD Student Lauren Scopel on St. George Island, AK holding a Red-legged Kittiwake chick. (Photo by Matt Klostermann)
Department of Biology
University of New Brunswick
l.c.scopel[AT]gmail.com
506-449-8044

Brief Abstract of Research: 

The Gulf of Maine is a well-studied and intensely managed region for many species of nesting seabirds, including the Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea).  Machias Seal Island (MSI) was, until recently, a stable colony that had been monitored for decades, and home to the largest concentration of breeding Arctic Terns in North America.  In 2006, after several years of low productivity, the terns abandoned the island just after laying, resulting in complete reproductive failure.  This pattern repeated annually between 2006-2013, coinciding with regional declines in the Arctic Tern metapopulation to which it belongs.  In 2014, terns on MSI successfully fledged chicks for the first time since 2005.  Although the reproductive output was modest, it also represents the first positive trend in reproduction at this important colony in over a decade.Arctic Tern at rest on Machias Seal Island (Photo by Matt Klostermann).

Regionally, Arctic Terns are still in decline; the failure of terns to breed on MSI may be indicative of significant ecosystem-wide changes, and portend future difficulties in seabird management.  Our study system is unique in that many colonies in our metapopulation have been monitored for decades, including the banding of many terns prior to MSI’s abandonment (Devlin et al 2008), allowing for post-abandonment assessment of demography.  Data sharing among organizations in the Gulf of Maine thus allows a large-scale study, both spatially and temporally.

The purpose of my PhD is to answer three main questions about tern population ecology after MSI was abandoned:
* What factors contributed to the failure of the MSI tern colony, and how do these factors affect successful colonies in the metapopulation?
* Are tern reproductive parameters indicative of bottom-up ecosystem-scale change in the Gulf of Maine?

* How did the abandonment of MSI affect breeding dispersal in the metapopulation, especially relative to Kate Devlin’s PhD study?

Results of this study should elucidate the population dynamics of terns in the Gulf of Maine, the relationship of terns to the rest of the ecosystem, and effective seabird management strategies. 

References:

Devlin, Catherine. (2006). Birds crossing borders: a population study of Arctic Terns. Ph.D.
Devlin, C.M., Diamond, A.W., Kress, S.W., Hall, C.S. and Welch, L. (2008). Breeding dispersal and survival of Arctic Terns in the Gulf of Maine. Auk 125(4), 1-9.

Publications:

Cox, J.A., L.C. Scopel and M.R. Klostermann.  2012.  Brown-headed Nuthatch occupancy in Central Florida and its relationship to forest type, forest structure, and the presence of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers.  The Condor 114(3): 622-628.First fledged Arctic Tern chick on MSI since 2005, taken summer 2014 (Photo by Linda Takahashi)

Unpublished reports:

Klostermann, M.R., L.C. Scopel and B.A. Drummond.  2011.  Biological monitoring at St. George Island, Alaska in 2011.  U.S. Fish and Wildl. Serv. Rep., AMNWR 2011/11.  Homer, Alaska.
Engstrom, C.E., M. Reedy, L.C. Scopel and N. Rojek.  2011.  Biological monitoring at Chowiet Island, Alaska in 2011.  U.S. Fish and Wildl. Serv. Rep., AMNWR 2011/15.  Homer, Alaska.

Scopel, L.C. 2013.  Machias Seal Island Seasonal Report.  Produced for Canadian Wildlife Service.

Scopel, L.C.  2010.  Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge, Penobscot Bay, Maine: 2010 Preseason Great Cormorant Report.  Produced for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Maine Coastal Islands NWR.
Klostermann, M.R. and L.C. Scopel.  2009.  Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge, Penobscot Bay, Maine: 2009 Postseason Report.  Produced for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Maine Coastal Islands NWR.
Klostermann, M.R. and L.C. Scopel.  2008.  Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge, Penobscot Bay, Maine:  2008 Postseason Report.  Produced for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Maine Coastal Islands NWR.

Selected presentations:

Scopel, L.C. and A.W. Diamond.  November 6, 2014.  “Colony collapse in an Arctic Tern metapopulation: food, weather, or predation?”  Waterbirds Society Meeting, La Paz, Mexico.  Awarded: Best Student Paper Award.


Scopel, L.C. and A.W. Diamond.  September 24, 2014.  “Colony collapse in an Arctic Tern metapopulation: food, weather, or predation?”  American Ornithologists Union Joint Meeting, Colorado.