Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

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Read about recent developments and findings in procellariiform science and conservation relevant to the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels in ACAP Latest News.

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Marine ornithologist who studies ACAP-listed albatrosses and petrels is appointed Director of the prestigious Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology

Professor Peter Ryan has been appointed Director of the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at South Africa’s University of Cape Town with effect from the beginning of the month.  Peter has been Acting Director of the “Fiztitute” since the untimely passing last year of its previous Director, Philip Hockey.

Peter is a graduate of the University of Cape Town (UCT).  Following a First Class Zoology Honours he completed his MSc (on plastic pollution in seabirds) and his PhD (on the endemic finches of Triston da Cunha’s Inaccessible Island) at UCT.  After a post-doc in California, he returned to South Africa to take up a lectureship post in the Institute in 1993.

Peter Ryan poses with the flag of Tristan da Cunha on the top of Stoltenthoff Islet with Nightingale Island in the background

Photograph by Tristan Islander Norman Glass

For the last two decades, Peter has been in charge of the FitzPatrick Institute’s research programmes on ACAP-listed and other seabirds at South Africa’s Prince Edward Islands in the southern Indian Ocean and on the Tristan islands, especially Gough and Inaccessible, in the South Atlantic, as well as at sea in the Southern Ocean.

His long-term research on the endemic and ACAP-listed Spectacled Petrel Procellaria conspicillata of Inaccessible has first shown the petrel is specifically distinct from the White-chinned Petrel P. aequinoctialis, and then has shown that its population is steadily increasing, allowing it be downlisted from Critically Endangered to Vulnerable in 2007 by BirdLife International.

Spectacled Petrels on Inaccessible Island, photographs by Peter Ryan

Peter Ryan has served on the ACAP Advisory Committee’s Taxonomic Working Group since its inception.

For more information on Peter Ryan’s ornithological career, including a full publication list click here.

Selected Literature:

Reid, T.A., Ronconi, R.A., Cuthbert, R.J. & Ryan, P.G. 2014.  The summer foraging ranges of adult Spectacled Petrels Procellaria conspicillata.  Antarctic Science 26: 23-32.

Ryan, P.G. & Moloney, C.L. 2000.  The status of Spectacled Petrels Procellaria conspicillata and other seabirds at Inaccessible Island.  Marine Ornithology 28: 93-100.

Ryan, P.G. & Ronconi, R.[A.] 2011.  Continued increase in numbers of Spectacled Petrels Procellaria conspicillata. Antarctic Science 23: 332-336.

Ryan, P.G., Dorse, C. & Hilton, G.M. 2006.  The conservation status of the Spectacled Petrel Procellaria conspicillata.  Biological Conservation 131: 575-583.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 11 March 2014

Dividing up the (fishy) pie: resource separation among albatrosses and petrels in the South Atlantic

Thomas Bodey (Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, Penryn, UK) and colleagues write in the Journal of Animal Ecology on resource partitioning by selected albatrosses and petrels that occur on Bird Island in the South Atlantic during both summer (breeding) and winter (non-breeding) months.

The paper’s summary follows:

  1. Interspecific competitive interactions typically result in niche differentiation to alleviate competition through mechanisms including character displacement.  However, competition is not the sole constraint on resource partitioning, and its effects are mediated by factors including the environmental context in which species coexist.
  2. Colonial seabirds provide an excellent opportunity to investigate the importance of competition in shaping realized niche widths because their life histories lead to variation in intra- and interspecific competition across the annual cycle.  Dense breeding aggregations result in intense competition for prey in surrounding waters, whereas non-breeding dispersal to larger geographical areas produces lower densities of competitors.
  3. Bayesian hierarchical models of the isotopic niche, closely aligned to the trophic niche, reveal the degree of segregation between species and functional groups during both time periods.  Surprisingly, species explained far more of the variance in the isotopic niche during the non-breeding than the breeding period.
  4. Our results underline the key role of non-breeding dynamics in alleviating competition and promoting distinctions between species through the facilitation of resource partitioning.  Such situations may be common in a diverse range of communities sustained by ephemeral but abundant food items.
  5. This highlights how consideration of the hierarchical grouping of competitive interactions alongside consideration of abiotic constraints across the complete annual cycle allows a full understanding of the role of competition in driving patterns of character displacement.

Grey-headed Albatross on Bird Island, photograph by Richard Phillips

With thanks to Barry Baker for information.

Reference:

Bodey, T.W., Ward, E.J., Phillips, R.A., McGill, R.A.R. & Bearhop, S. 2014.  Species versus guild level differentiation revealed across the annual cycle by isotopic niche examination.  Journal of Animal Ecology 83: 470-478.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 10 March 2014

A field season with Black-Browed Albatrosses on New Island

As every year for the last 12 years, a study plot of 280 nests of Black-Browed Albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris has been monitored on New Island, Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas)*.  This season the “Albatross Dream Team” consisted of Letizia Campioni, Deborah Pardo and Paulo Catry.

A study colony on the south-western cliffs of New Island

Undertaking attendance checks, photograph by Gunnar Scholtz

Individual presence, breeding success and laying dates were recorded to construct a solid demographic data set.  At the same time, the main goals for this season were to deploy GPS and GLS trackers on breeding birds so as to record movements and activity during both incubation and chick-rearing.  This tracking information will be used in conjunction with isotopic analyses of blood and feathers.

A pair of marked albatrosses during a shift changeover

In addition, a large part of the project was to improve knowledge of the at-sea movements of pre-breeding immature birds.  Seventy-five GPS trackers were deployed on three- to seven year-old birds previously banded as chicks that had returned as non-breeding “loafers” within the colony.  These immatures were marked with TESA tape on their metal bands to aid in their identification for recapture.  Again blood samples were taken for isotopic analyses as well as for genetic sexing.  GLS loggers were then deployed for studying their wintering areas and we hope to recover them in the following years.

An immature Black-browed Albatross flies overhead wearing a leg-mounted GLS tracker

Photographs by Deborah Pardo unless noted.

Selected Literature:

Catry, P., Forcada, J. & Almeida, A. 2011.  Demographic parameters of Black-browed Albatrosses Thalassarche melanophris from the Falkland Islands.  Polar Biology 34: 1221-1229.

Strange, I.J. 2007.  New Island, Falkland Islands: a South Atlantic Wildlife Sanctuary for Conservation Management.  Stanley: Design in Nature.  152 pp.

Deborah Pardo, British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, UK and ACAP European News Correspondent, 09 March 2014

*A dispute exists between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland concerning sovereignty over the Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (Islas Georgias del Sur y Islas Sandwich del Sur) and the surrounding maritime areas.

UPDATE: Petition has reached 4188 signatures requesting the USA to ratify ACAP

UPDATE:  The petition now aims to collect 5000 signatures and to date has reached a total of 2804 (07 February 2014) and 4188 (08 March 2014).

The National Audubon Society, an NGO based in the USA, has initiated an on-line petition that requests US Congress members to support the ratification of ACAP.  The petition aims to collect 2500 signatures and to date has collected 2439 (click here).

Three ACAP-listed species, the Black-footed Phoebastria nigripes, Laysan P. immutabilis and Short-tailed P. albatrus Albatrosses, breed within the USA, all on islands in the Hawaiian chain in the North Pacific.

The USA has been an active participant in the work of ACAP since its inception, sending observers to all the Sessions of the Meeting of Parties and of its Advisory Committee and working group meetings held to date.  The USA also attended the second and final negotiation meetings for ACAP held in 2000 and 2001. However, it has yet to ratify the Agreement and become a Party to ACAP.

In September 2008 then USA President George W. Bush transmitted the Agreement to the United States Senate for approval (click here).  In January 2009, the United States Departments of Commerce and of the Interior jointly forwarded to the U.S. Congress proposed legislation to implement the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels in the USA, entitled the Albatross and Petrel Conservation Act of 2009 (click here).

Short-tailed Albatross breeding on Midway Atoll, photograph by Sarah Gutowsky

The mission of the National Audubon Society is to “conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity.”

ACAP came into force in February 2004 and currently has 13 member countries and covers 30 species of albatrosses, petrels and shearwaters.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 29 January 2014, updated 08 March 2014

Postdoctoral position in bioenergetic modelling of Antarctic albatrosses available in Florida, USA

A full-time postdoctoral position is available in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of South Florida (USF), USA.

The postdoc will work as part of a multinational, multi-institutional NSF Polar Program-funded project to study the bioenergetics and foraging strategies of endangered Antarctic [sic] albatrosses.  The postdoc will primarily be located in the lab of Dr Leah Johnson at USF, jointly mentored by Dr Sadie J. Ryan (SUNY-ESF), and will have significant opportunities to interact with scientists at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). This project entails international collaboration and travel.

The goal of this project is to answer the question: what are the population consequences of albatross bioenergetics and foraging strategies?

This work will further a general understanding of how bioenergetics shapes behaviour and drives population level processes, while providing an approach that can be used to guide conservation strategies for endangered populations.  This position will focus on building individual-based models of albatross bioenergetics and foraging strategies, and will incorporate dynamic energy budget modelling and state dependent foraging theory.  Further, a large amount of data is available for model validation and fitting, which will be approached using Bayesian methods.

Qualifications:

The candidate must have a Ph.D. or equivalent degree in mathematical biology or a related field by the start date.

Candidates with a background in dynamic energy budget or other bioenergetic modelling, statistics, population biology, sea bird ecology, applied mathematics, or similar will be given preference.

Strong organizational, programming, and quantitative analysis skills are necessary.

Preferred:

Programming skills in R or C; knowledge of Bayesian statistics;

experience in quantitative ecological modelling, geographical analysis, bioinformatics, or spatial modelling.

Desired:

Excellent oral/written communication; leadership and interpersonal skills;

demonstrated ability to work in teams. GIS skills a plus.

The position is available beginning 1 May 2014, although the start date is flexible. Funding is available for three years.  An initial appointment will be for one year with extension contingent on performance.  Salary is US$40 000-45 000/year, commensurate with experience, and includes full benefits.

To apply send a cover letter, CV, statement of research and career interests, and contact information for 3-5 references, as a single PDF, to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Review of applications will begin immediately, and continue until the position is filled.

Light-mantled Sooty Albatrosses: the only species that breeds within Antarctica

Photograph by John Chardine

Above text taken from a World Seabird Union post (click here).

Click here for more information.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 08 March 2013