Stephanie Symons

University of New BrunswickStephanie Symons on Machias Seal Island conducting field work, 2014.
Department of Biology

email: stephanie.c.symons[AT]gmail.com

Where are Puffins and Razorbills foraging? The use of GPS tracking to reveal habitat use and movements in the Gulf of Maine.

Brief Abstract of Research:

Threats to marine conservation are on the rise. Coastal and offshore waters in the Gulf of Maine have been proposed as possible renewable energy development zones. The proposed Energy East pipeline in eastern Canada will deliver bitumen to Saint John NB for shipment through the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of Maine. These areas are close to many seabird nesting sites and development could potentially threaten these populations.

My project seeks to identify seabird feeding “hotspots” in relation to potential energy development zones. I am deploying GPS loggers on chick-rearing Atlantic Puffins (Fratercula arctica) and Razorbills (Alca torda) with the goal of determining areas where many seabirds aggregate predictably to feed. I am interested in discovering if birds take cues from oceanographic features (ie. bathymetry, ocean currents, etc.) to determine quality foraging sites.

In addition to GPS tracking, I am also monitoring the behaviour of tagged individuals pre- and post-tagging, via outdoor video cameras, to assess the influence of the tag on the individual. This footage also allows me to monitor the tag attachment site as well as acquire information on the duration of mate shifts during chick rearing.Atlantic puffin and its auk cousin the Razorbill on Machias Seal Island, 2014 (photo by Stephanie Symons).