Blake Massey2009 - California - 083

PhD Student, Wildlife Conservation


Advisors: Curt Griffin, Kevin McGarigal

Individual-based movement model of breeding Bald Eagles
(Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in Maine

Wind energy has significant overall environmental benefits compared to most fossil fuel based technologies, but poorly sited turbines may have adverse effects on local and migratory birds, bats, and other wildlife and their habitats. In the northeastern United States, Maine has become the leader in wind energy but also has the greatest density of Bald Eagles in the region. As wind energy production continues to be developed in the state and coastal waters, research is needed to analyze and assess potential risks to the eagle population.

One increasingly powerful and proven tool in the assessment of ecological impacts is individual-based modeling. This approach uses unique and autonomous agents that interact with each other and their environment to simulate dynamic systems. Individual-based models offer an effective and flexible approach to modeling animal-movement because they can accommodate landscape patterns, territoriality, memory, and behavioral adaptations.

The objective of my project is to create an individual-based, spatially-explicit model of breeding Bald Eagle ranging behavior in current and potential wind energy production areas. Bald Eagle movement data will be collected through GPS telemetry data and used to parameterize the movement models. These models will be based on underlying mechanistic functions and real and derived landscape variables. Once the model has been developed, eagle movement patterns will be simulated across actual landscapes and under varying development scenarios. Ultimately, this will provide a tool for landscape planning and help to minimize the impacts of wind energy on bald eagles.