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Foraging ecology

Research questions

Where do seabirds go to find food?

What's the ocean like there?

WHTE feeding chick (1).JPG

Where did this White Tern get this fish?

To answer these questions, I use a combination of scientific tools.


  • GPS tracking tags tell us where the birds travel.

  • Remotely sensed environmental variables like chlorophyll and sea surface temperature tell us what the ocean was like when the bird visited different areas.

  • Chemical signatures, like carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes, tell us about the birds' diets.

GWPE Nest 5 Tag.JPG

GPS tracking tag

GPS tracking data
Chlorophyll concentrations
Related publications

Gilmour, M.E., J.L. Lavers, C. Lamborg, O. Chastel, S.A. Kania, S.A. Shaffer. 2019. Mercury as an indicator of foraging ecology but not the breeding hormone prolactin in seabirds. Ecological Indicators 103:248-259.

Synopsis: Mercury concentrations were significantly different between sympatric Flesh-footed Shearwaters and Great-winged Petrels. By combining the mercury data with carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes, we can tell that these species forage in different ocean habitats and/or on different prey items.
Gilmour, M.E., J.A. Castillo-Guerrero, A.B. Fleishman, S. Hernández-Vázquez, H.S. Young, and S.A. Shaffer. 2018. Plasticity of foraging behaviors in response to diverse environmental conditions. Ecosphere 9(7):e02301. 10.1002/ecs2.2301
Synopsis: Boobies throughout the Pacific Ocean are flexible foragers. They change their foraging behaviors depending on the local environmental conditions that they encounter. This means that they could be good at adapting their foraging during events like climate change.
Gilmour, M.E., B.A. Schreiber, and D.C. Dearborn. 2010. Satellite telemetry of Great Frigatebirds rearing chicks on Tern Island, North Central Pacific Ocean. Marine Ornithology 40:17-23.
Synopsis: Great Frigatebirds foraged both inside and outside the boundaries of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. This means that they are only partially protected while foraging for food to feed their chicks.
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