Common Murres at necropsy illustrating types of human-related mortality: entanglement and oiling.
The Seabird Health Study provides a regional information center regarding marine bird mortality events for federal, state, and local resource managers and is based out of California Department of Fish and Game Office of Spill Prevention and Response, Marine Wildlife and Veterinary Care and Research Center in Santa Cruz.
Marine birds are important indicators of marine ecosystem health as their abundance and mortality can provide indication of natural (such as changes in forage fish abundance) and human-related (chronic oiling, entanglement) changes in the coastal marine ecosystem. The main objectives of the Seabird Health Study are to: 1) identify unusual mortality events involving seabirds, and 2) determine the causes, and 3) severity of these events by determining which age classes or sexes might have been affected (demographics). Our focal species include pelicans, cormorants, loons, grebes, shearwaters, murres and other alcids. We also collect information from sampling live marine birds captured at sea. We are particularly interested in impacts to the Common Murres and other seabird species affected by oil spills in California.
We work collaboratively to gather regional data from beach survey programs, rehabilitation centers, and state and federal agencies. During unusual mortality events, we conduct post-mortem examinations of seabirds and work in conjunction with the California Department of Fish and Game Petroleum Chemistry Lab and Wildlife Investigations Lab, USGS National Wildlife Health Center, Madison, WI; Wildlife Health Center, University of CA at Davis, California Animal Health & Food Safety Laboratory; Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, and other laboratories to identify cause of mortality.