Archived project

Monitoring Kittlitz's and marbled murrelets in Glacier Bay National Park

Goal: Since 2009, the National Park Service’s Southeast Alaska Inventory and Monitoring Network has monitored population abundance and spatial distribution of Kittlitz's and marbled murrelets in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, an important summer residence for both species.

Methods: Distance Sampling

Date: 30 June 2009 - 28 August 2018

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Project log

Christopher J. Sergeant
added a research item
Since 2009, the National Park Service’s Southeast Alaska Inventory and Monitoring Network (SEAN) has monitored population abundance and spatial distribution of Kittlitz's (KIMU) and marbled murrelets (MAMU) in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, an important summer residence for both species. Monitoring program design focuses on KIMU, with secondary consideration of MAMU. The SEAN uses boat-based line transect surveys to estimate species-specific, on-water density and abundance of murrelets, accounting for detection probability and unidentified murrelets. We surveyed 46 transects totaling 251.4 km from 6-10 July 2017 across the 1,170 km2 survey area in Glacier Bay proper. We estimated an abundance of 8,810 KIMU (SE = 1,513) and 59,126 MAMU (SE = 8,390). Estimated KIMU abundance increased 25% from 2016. For the second year in a row, estimated MAMU abundance was nearly the same as the 9-year monitoring average and only decreased 2% from 2016. From 2009 to 2017, KIMU abundance estimates have ranged from 7,025 to 16,469 (9-year mean = 10,513), while MAMU have ranged from 28,978 to 84,428 (9-year mean = 60,718). S. Hoekman (Wild Ginger Consulting) has completed a draft synthesis report of the murrelet monitoring program that is currently undergoing NPS peer review. The report has five major objectives: 1) summarize important results for survey years 2010-2016 with a focus on abundance and spatial distributions of murrelet populations, 2) review and summarize recent scientific literature relevant to the monitoring protocol and management of murrelets in Glacier Bay, 3) assess if field operations have met performance objectives, 4) assess performance of key sampling and analytic methods, and 5) provide recommendations for monitoring protocol revisions to enhance capacity to meet monitoring objectives and for management of murrelets in GLBA. Pending the findings of this synthesis report, our results and experience to date suggest that key operational components of our protocol are functioning as intended. The SEAN Kittlitz’s Murrelets Resource Brief is a non-technical summary of recent monitoring program highlights and relevance to park management. It can be viewed and downloaded at: http://science.nature.nps.gov/im/units/sean/auxrep/KM/KM_resource_brief.pdf
Christopher J. Sergeant
added an update
Annual report is done and awaiting NPS review. Should be out very soon!
 
Christopher J. Sergeant
added an update
Glacier Bay murrelet surveys were completed this year from July 6-11. We had an excellent crew and fair winds that got us in and out very quickly. Big bird hotspots were the west side of Russell Island and the Marble Islands. Kittlitz's abundance seemed above average, but we will be crunching the numbers within the next couple of months and have an annual report wrapped up around the end of the year.
 
Christopher J. Sergeant
added a research item
This presentation is annotated with my speaking notes, so when you open the .ppt file, you should be able to follow along with each slide. In this presentation I discuss several things: 1) What makes these birds unique? They may not be “the most mysterious,” but even now in 2017 very little is known about the lives of Kittlitz’s murrelets. What is known, though, is really intriguing and demonstrates that these are really special birds. 2) After giving you some cool facts, I’ll talk about why should we count them in Glacier Bay and why long-term study is important. 3) How do we survey them? What have we seen? 4) And finally, if you decide to make a big trip to Glacier Bay in the future, I’ll run down where you are most likely to find a Kittlitz’s murrelet and give you some tips for identifying them correctly
Christopher J. Sergeant
added a research item
Since 2009, the National Park Service’s Southeast Alaska Inventory and Monitoring Network (SEAN) has monitored population abundance and spatial distribution of Kittlitz's (KIMU) and marbled murrelets (MAMU) in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, an important summer residence for both species. Monitoring program design focuses on KIMU, with secondary consideration of MAMU. The SEAN uses boat-based line transect surveys to estimate species-specific, on-water density and abundance of murrelets, accounting for detection probability and unidentified murrelets. We surveyed 40 transects totaling 209.4 km from 7-12 July 2016 across the 1,170 km2 survey area in Glacier Bay proper. We estimated an abundance of 7,025 KIMU (SE = 1,345) and 60,624 MAMU (SE = 12,018). Estimated KIMU abundance was the lowest since monitoring began in 2009 and decreased 35% from 2015, but it was very similar in magnitude to estimates from 2011 and 2013 and is not an obvious cause for concern. Estimated MAMU abundance was nearly the same as the 8-year monitoring average and decreased 28% from 2015. From 2009 to 2016, KIMU abundance estimates have ranged from 7,025 to 16,469 (8-year mean = 10,726), while MAMU have ranged from 28,978 to 84,428 (8-year mean = 60,917). The SEAN and S. Hoekman (Wild Ginger Consulting) are currently drafting a synthesis report with five major objectives: 1) summarize important results for survey years 2010-2016 with a focus on abundance and spatial distributions of murrelet populations, 2) review and summarize recent scientific literature relevant to the monitoring protocol and management of murrelets in Glacier Bay, 3) assess if field operations have met performance objectives, 4) assess performance of key sampling and analytic methods, and 5) provide recommendations for monitoring protocol revisions to enhance capacity to meet monitoring objectives and for management of murrelets in GLBA. Pending this synthesis report, our results and experience to-date suggest that key operational components of our monitoring protocol are functioning as intended. The SEAN Kittlitz’s Murrelets Resource Brief is a non-technical summary of recent monitoring program highlights and relevance to park management. It can be viewed and downloaded at: http://science.nature.nps.gov/im/units/sean/auxrep/KM/KM_resource_brief.pdf
Christopher J. Sergeant
added an update
Due to unforeseen circumstances, the talk below has been re-scheduled for April 20. Same location.
 
Christopher J. Sergeant
added an update
I'll be presenting the latest results of our monitoring program and interesting facts about Kittlitz's murrelet biology on March 9th in Sitka, Alaska. Flyer attached. Should be a lot of fun!
 
Christopher J. Sergeant
added an update
Our 8th consecutive season of estimating abundance and spatial distribution of murrelets in Glacier Bay National Park.
 
Christopher J. Sergeant
added a project goal
Since 2009, the National Park Service’s Southeast Alaska Inventory and Monitoring Network has monitored population abundance and spatial distribution of Kittlitz's and marbled murrelets in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, an important summer residence for both species.
 
Christopher J. Sergeant
added 6 research items
Since 2009, the National Park Service’s Southeast Alaska Inventory and Monitoring Network (SEAN) has monitored population abundance and trend of Kittlitz's (KIMU) and marbled murrelets (MAMU) in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, an important summer residence for both species. This annual report summarizes data in a concise format and focuses on current population abundance and spatial distribution. Monitoring focuses on KIMU, with secondary consideration of MAMU. KIMU are an open-water, pursuit forager whose reliance on pelagic prey sources link their habitat use in some areas to dynamic physical habitat variables such as glacial extent and oceanography. Previous studies in Glacier Bay suggest recent declines in KIMU populations, but uncertainty persists due to methodological differences across surveys. SEAN uses boat-based line transect surveys to estimate species-specific, on-water density and abundance of murrelets, accounting for detection probability and unidentified murrelets. We surveyed 245 km on 45 transects from 8-16 July 2012 across the 1,170 km2 survey area in Glacier Bay proper. We estimated an abundance of 16,469 KIMU (SE = 2,581) and 52,560 MAMU (SE = 5,216). From 2009 to 2012, KIMU abundance estimates have ranged from 7,477 to 16,469 with annual changes of -44% to 120%, while MAMU have ranged from 28,978 to 73,766 with annual changes of -29% to 113%. Such large variation was unlikely to reflect solely intrinsic population growth. Monitoring in Glacier Bay confirms that the park supports an important fraction of the global KIMU population. After the 2016 survey, SEAN will synthesize existing abundance and trend information and re-examine analytic methods to assess if monitoring is likely to achieve program objectives. Our results to-date demonstrate that key operational components of our monitoring protocol are functioning as intended.
Since 2009, the National Park Service’s Southeast Alaska Inventory and Monitoring Network (SEAN) has monitored population abundance and spatial distribution of Kittlitz's (KIMU) and marbled murrelets (MAMU) in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, an important summer residence for both species. Monitoring program design focuses on KIMU, with secondary consideration of MAMU. The SEAN uses boat-based line transect surveys to estimate species-specific, on-water density and abundance of murrelets, accounting for detection probability and unidentified murrelets. We surveyed 246.5 km on 45 transects from 7-16 July 2014 across the 1,170 km2 survey area in Glacier Bay proper. We estimated an abundance of 10,422 KIMU (SE = 1,522) and 41,474 MAMU (SE = 3,988). From 2009 to 2014, KIMU abundance estimates have ranged from 7,210 to 16,469 (6-year average = 11,335) with annual changes of -56% to 120%, while MAMU have ranged from 28,978 to 84,428 (6-year average = 57,154) with annual changes of -51% to 113%. Such large variation was very unlikely to reflect solely intrinsic population dynamics. This season, in cooperation with S. Hoekman (Wild Ginger Consulting), the SEAN participated in field trials assessing multi-observer methods to reliably estimate species identification error rates during surveys. The results of this work will be reported in a future peer-reviewed publication. During July 2013, SEAN staff and volunteers participated in a field experiment designed to evaluate the magnitude of KIMU versus MAMU identification error among six observers of differing experience levels and under a suite of environmental conditions. The results were applied to measure potential bias in abundance estimates induced from varying identification error rates. The average misidentification rate was low, with an average probability of 0.036 (SE = 0.004) across all observers. Observer experience was the main driver of variation in identification error rates, with more experienced observers making fewer errors. Therefore, these results emphasize the importance of conducting consistent, rigorous observer training before and during abundance surveys to increase confidence in species identification and precision in abundance estimates of both KIMU and MAMU. After the 2015 survey, the SEAN will synthesize existing abundance and trend information and re-examine analytic methods to assess if monitoring in its current form is likely to achieve program objectives. Our results to-date demonstrate that key operational components of our monitoring protocol are functioning as intended.
Since 2009, the National Park Service’s Southeast Alaska Inventory and Monitoring Network (SEAN) has monitored population abundance and spatial distribution of Kittlitz's (KIMU) and marbled murrelets (MAMU) in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, an important summer residence for both species. Monitoring program design focuses on KIMU, with secondary consideration of MAMU. The SEAN uses boat-based line transect surveys to estimate species-specific, on-water density and abundance of murrelets, accounting for detection probability and unidentified murrelets. We surveyed 249.9 km on 46 transects from 9-16 July 2015 across the 1,170 km2 survey area in Glacier Bay proper. We estimated an abundance of 10,778 KIMU (SE = 2,598) and 83,793 MAMU (SE = 12,044). Estimated KIMU abundance was slightly lower than the seven-year average of abundance estimates (11,255) and increased only 3% from 2014. Estimated MAMU abundance was the second highest on record and increased 102% from 2014. From 2009 to 2015, KIMU abundance estimates have ranged from 7,210 to 16,469 with annual changes of -56% to 120%, while MAMU have ranged from 28,978 to 84,428 (seven-year average = 60,959) with annual changes of -51% to 113%. In 2016, the SEAN will synthesize existing abundance and trend information and re-examine field and analytic methods to assess if monitoring in its current form is likely to achieve program objectives. Our results demonstrate that key operational components of our monitoring protocol are functioning as intended. The SEAN Kittlitz’s Murrelets Resource Brief is a non-technical summary of recent monitoring program highlights and relevance to park management. It can be viewed and downloaded at: http://science.nature.nps.gov/im/units/sean/auxrep/KM/KM_resource_brief.pdf