Amelia J. Duvall

Graduate Research Assistant, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

University of Washington

Amelia J. DuVall

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Banding a Cassin’s auklet nesting in artificial habitat at Scorpion Rock off Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park (Photo credit: Colin McCarthy).

Graduate research assistant at School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, University of Washington

This may be blasphemy to write on a global seabirds platform, but I did not grow up loving seabirds (or even birds for that matter). Plants were my first love. Through habitat restoration work at Channel Islands National Park, USA, I discovered some seabirds rely on native plant communities for breeding habitat. Once I realized seabirds move effortlessly across land, sea, and sky, I was hooked in an emotional and literal sense. I spent several years restoring native habitat and monitoring seabirds (e.g., ashy storm-petrel [Hydrobates homochroa], California brown pelican [Pelecanus occidentalis californicus], Cassin’s auklet [Ptychoramphus aleuticus], Scripps’s murrelet [Synthliboramphus scrippsi]) on California’s Channel Islands with California Institute of Environmental Studies, Wildlands Conservation Science, and U.S. Geological Survey Western Ecological Research Center.

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Native coreopsis (Leptosyne gigantea) going to seed on Santa Cruz Island in Channel Islands National Park, with Anacapa Island in the background (Photo credit: Amelia DuVall).

In 2019, I started a PhD in Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington (UW). I am a member of UW’s Quantitative Conservation Lab and Washington Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. My dissertation focuses on population dynamics of breeding seabird species in the Pacific Ocean and the effects of threats on these dynamics (e.g., changes in prey abundance/distribution, invasive species, predation, disturbance), as well as our opportunity to mitigate threats with management actions. I will have multiple chapters focused on Channel Islands National Park with support and funding from the National Park Service. The Channel Islands are a compelling location to study because they sit at the intersection of the cool, nutrient-rich California Current and the warmer Southern California Countercurrent. This unique oceanographic position supports a mixture of northern and southern breeding seabirds that is not found anywhere else in the world. We are seeing real-time changes in the species composition, as historically southern species push their breeding ranges north, such as the recent confirmation of the brown booby (Sula leucogaster) and blue-footed booby (Sula nebouxii) as breeding off Santa Barbara Island. By deepening our understanding of the relationship between seabird population dynamics and oceanographic conditions, I hope to help Channel Islands National Park prioritize management actions to conserve breeding seabirds in the face of changing ocean conditions.

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Working in the native plant nursery at Anacapa Island, Channel Islands National Park. You can see multiple breeding western gulls (Larus occidentalis) in the background (Photo credit: Colin McCarthy).

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Ashy storm-petrel (Hydrobates homochroa) brooding a chick at Channel Islands National Park. We can access some crevice sites and band chicks before they fledge. (Photo credit: Amelia DuVall).

I’m also involved with a seabird study at Tetiaroa, a small private atoll in the Society Islands of French Polynesia. Tetiaroa is home to tens of thousands of breeding seabirds of 10 different species--as well as two non-native rat species (black rat [Rattus rattus] and Polynesian rat [R. exulans]). With collaborators at UW and Tetiaroa Society, we are studying seabird communities ahead of a planned eradication of rats in 2021. In particular, I am using acoustic data to establish baseline seabird distribution and abundance prior to the eradication. With this data, I am developing a model to better understand the effects of introduced predators and predict changes in seabird abundance and distribution following invasive mammal eradications. We hope to use this model to inform the prioritization of islands for future eradication efforts to conserve threatened seabird species. We also initiated a long-term banding program to track individuals across their lifetimes to better understand the relationships between survival and ocean conditions. Focal species at Tetiaroa include the red-footed booby (Sula sula), brown booby (Sula leucogaster), brown noddy (Anous stolidus), sooty tern (Onychoprion fuscatus), and greater crested tern (Thalasseus bergii). Later this year, we plan to attach GPS tags to booby species to determine where these species forage both during and outside the breeding season and better understand fine-scale movements and habitat use across the atoll.

I am always keen to collaborate and learn more about other systems/species and monitoring, restoration, and conservation programs. Please reach out and say hello!

Highlighted Researcher Photo info/credit: Looking for nesting ashy storm-petrels (Hydrobates homochroa) in sea caves at Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park. This is one of my favorite things, but it is never a good time to think about earthquakes (Photo credit: Colin McCarthy)!