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Themed #seabirdersaturday: stable isotopes

Alex Bond, July 10, 2015

Hi all, I'm hosting the next themed #seabirdersaturday on Twitter this Saturday, 11 July, from 1300-1500 GMT (2300-0100 AEST, 1400-1600 BST, 0900-1100 ET, 0600-0800 PT) on stable isotopes in seabirds.

Stable isotopes have been frequently used to infer diet, movement, ecology, and make conservation recommendations for seabirds over the last 25 years. Technological advances in the late 1990s and early 2000s meant large amounts of data could be rapidly collected and analysed for δ2H, δ13C, δ15N, and δ34S, among others. But as a technique firmly based in analytical chemistry, and often performed by contract labs, its adoption by ecologist has been widespread, though sometimes poorly informed. Statistical modeling of stable isotope values has also progressed rapidly, with influences from mathematics, physiology, and ecology.

This #seabirdersaturday, I’ll give a bit of background to the analysis of common avian tissues (blood, feathers, egg components) for δ2H, δ13C, δ15N, and δ34S, and highlight some of the key papers from the last 25 years. I’ll also flag some of the common pitfalls to the application of stable isotopes to seabird ecology, and some strategies for avoiding, or at least mitigating them.

I’ll also answer questions, so ask them using the #seabirdersaturday hashtag. So far, these include: • Uses of stable isotopes beyond diet/food-web studies • How to consider “baseline” values when comparing across sites/years • Compound-specific isotope analysis (particularly amino acids) • Novel uses of stable isotopes to answer ecological questions • Uses of stable isotopes besides δ13C and δ15N (e.g., δ2H, δ18O, δ34S)