Seabird Observer


Will began his graduate work at Oregon State University in 2020 after five years of seasonal avian field technician work.  His primary research focuses on the foraging and spatial ecology of Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica) breeding in a rapidly warming Gulf of Maine using GPS tracking, dive data, and fecal DNA metabarcoding.  He’ll be joining the HALO Project from OSU’s Seabird Oceanography Lab to collect data on pelagic seabird distribution and abundance off the Oregon Coast.

Why is the HALO project important to you? Anything you’re most excited to learn about?

The HALO project in its purest form seeks to answer big questions on how marine mammal distribution may be influenced by environmental drivers, hopefully improving our ability to predict how they’ll respond to climate change.  What makes the project really special to me is the flexibility for collaborative projects to participate, which allows for a dedicated seabird observer to participate in these cruises.  I’m interested to see how cooperating researchers will approach the project’s broad guiding questions from different angles.  For instance, what environmental conditions might result in “hotspots” of high prey and seabird abundance?  Are these “hotspot”-drivers the same for marine mammals?  And do these same environmental conditions predict seabird abundance and distribution equally well at all times of the year?  I’m excited to see how having researchers specializing in marine mammals, prey species, and seabirds all together may also help us think of new questions we haven’t even known to ask before.   

Why is support from the public so essential to the
HALO project?

Public support for the HALO project is critical, both in terms of financial support and cooperation with the local community.  Money from the Oregon Gray Whale License Plate fund provides a lot of the means to conduct this research.  It’s also just exciting to see so many of these license plates on the road, showing how many people in the community actively support research and conservation in their home state.  I think a lot of that indirect emotional support will keep us all excited to share our work with the public and to report back to Oregonians on what we’re finding offshore.