MS – Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation
The distribution and habitat use of Kittlitz’s murrelets in Prince William Sound, Alaska
Earthwatch Institute (2008)
National Fish and Wildlife Federation: Alaska Fish and Wildlife Grant (2009)
US FWS (Anchorage, Alaska)
Dr. Curtice R. Griffin
The Kittlitz’s murrelet (Brachyramphus brevirostris) is one of the rarest and poorly understood seabirds in the world, and is currently being considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Over 90% of the global population spends the summer breeding season in Alaskan waters. Many core areas within Alaska show very drastic population declines over the past 20 years. One of these areas, Prince William Sound, which accounts for around 10-15% of Alaska’s Kittlitz’s population, showed population declines of over 80% between 1989 and 2000 (Kuletz et al. 2003). Within Prince William Sound waters, Kittlitz’s show a very patchy distribution, generally preferring tidewater glacier habitats and glacial outflow regions (Kuletz et al. 2003). Although this habitat preference has been well documented, the reasons why Kittlitz’s prefer these areas are still poorly understood. Through the use of at-sea surveys, habitat sampling, and stable isotope analysis, I hope to make habitat correlations among Kittlitz’s distribution and abundance in Prince William Sound and biological/physical habitat characteristics. In accomplishing this we may be able to advise formal management decisions, as well as education through more informal avenues, in order to reduce human disturbance of this rare and declining seabird population in key habitat areas of Prince William Sound.
Kuletz, K.J., S.W. Stephensen, D.B. Irons, E.A. Labunski and K.M. Brenneman. 2003. Changes in distribution and abundance of Kittlitz’s murrelets (Brachyramphus brevirostris) relative to glacial recession in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Marine Ornithology 31:133-140.