COASTAL FOOD WEBS AND CONSERVATION
Based at UC Santa Barbara, WERC marine ecologist Kevin Lafferty
specializes in coastal food webs and conservation science. Lafferty’s team is building food webs, from protozoa to birds, for 14 estuaries along the U.S. Pacific Coast. With UCSB researchers, he is characterizing California kelp forest ecosystems, findings which can inform BOEM coastal resource planning. Lafferty’s conservation research includes marine reserve design and selection, as well as protected species research on tidewater goby, abalone disease, and western snowy plover behavior.
Using Parasites to Monitor Ecosystem Healthy
ESTUARIES AND SEA LEVEL RISE
At 14 estuary sites
spanning San Diego to Puget Sound, WERC ecologists Karen Thorne
and Susan de la Cruz
are establishing comprehensive wetland observatories to monitor and forecast the fate of salt marshes under sea level rise. Teams are conducting high-res RTK GPS surveys of marsh vegetation and elevation, and partnering with local institutions to record storm surge events, sediment transport and bathymetry, sediment core paleo data, waterbird ecology, benthic food webs, and long-term trends in marsh resilience.
Modeling Sea-Level Rise in San Francisco Bay Estuary
SEABIRDS AND OCEAN HOTSPOTS
WERC seabird ecologist Josh Adams
conducts habitat assessments and nesting studies, and helped pioneer satellite telemetry studies on auks, petrels, albatross, and shearwaters. For BOEM, Adams leads the PaCSEA marine transect surveys
studying seabird and marine mammal hotspots of the northern California Current Large Marine Ecosystem; a new, collaborative telemetry project assessing seabird distribution and movements to assess their vulnerability to wind energy sitings in Hawaii; and efforts to compile spatial databases
for seabird and marine mammal ecology in southern California waters.
Summary of Seabird Studies at WERC
ISLAND RESTORATION SCIENCE
WERC scientists Robert Fisher
and Kevin Lafferty
are part of the Palmyra Atoll Research Consortium, which provides restoration science for the Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge
. Fisher’s team surveys terrestrial wildlife and invasive species impact, while Lafferty is assessing reef food webs, using parasite diversity to measure reef ecosystem health. Elsewhere in the Pacific, WERC researchers also advise on biosecurity, endangered species surveys, and sea level rise risks for U.S. interests and foreign partners.
Palmyra Atoll Research Consortium
SEA OTTER RECOVERY
WERC ecologist Tim Tinker
conducts annual population surveys of California sea otters
for the USFWS, as well as a suite of comparative studies revealing natural and human factors limiting sea otter recovery in California. Tinker also studies the cascading influence of sea otters on local food webs, and collaborates on sea otter research in Alaska and Russia. He co-leads the Pacific Nearshore Project
, a multiagency effort studying sea otters as an indicator of nearshore ecosystem health in California, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska waters.
California Sea Otter Surveys and Research
Sea duck ecology and migrations • Oil spill seabird impact assessment • Seabird vulnerability to ocean energy projects • Boat traffic impacts on seabird behavior • Seabird breeding habitat restoration • RNA analysis for marine contaminants exposure • Salt marsh restoration science and management • Channel Islands fog ecology • BOEM fisheries GIS database