In 2002 the Lloyd Center entered a partnership with the Tufts School of Conservation Medicine to initiate the Seabird Ecological Assessment Network (SEANET) in the Buzzards Bay region, the first effort along the Atlantic coast to document patterns of beached bird deposition on shorelines (mainly beaches), and use this data as indicators of overall marine health. The project was modelled after a similar effort along the Pacific Coast.
The information gained from beached bird surveys is far reaching. Whether it’s a herring gull entangled in fishing line, mortality of migratory common loons caused by an oil spill (recall Buzzards Bay spill of 2003), or shearwaters impacted by a summer algal bloom, beached bird data helps reveal information about these species. It also sheds light on offshore events impacting these birds which affect the coastal ecosystem as a whole, and have implications for marine and ultimately human health.
The goal of the effort has been to detect timing and patterns of beached bird deposition in our region, tie this to events out at sea, and help gain a clearer picture of the overall health of Buzzards Bay as it relates to “seabirds”. So SEANET data provided by volunteers ties in to the myriad of work already in place by various marine stakeholders – including fishermen using oceans for economic gain, scientists managing for biodiversity, and ornithologists devising management plans for certain species, to name just a few. Data is directly tied to various management plans in place in the marine environment.
Although seabirds for SEANET refer to any birds utilizing the shores at any time, the project is especially useful and geared toward gaining insight into species spending extensive time at sea. Some oceanic/pelagic species (e.g. shearwaters, see photos) are often only seen if encountered via SEANET surveys. SEANET data also includes live bird surveys, which ties into other efforts in place documenting bird use of shorelines, and provides timely data regarding avian habitat use.
Volunteers conduct bi-monthly surveys when they collect data on baseline environmental conditions on their assigned/chosen site, and conduct measurements on and take photos of any beached birds found. Live birds are also documented during each walk.
Because the project is currently unfunded, we rely entirely on volunteer efforts to collect the data and keep the project alive. While many sites have been consistently surveyed by long-time volunteers, gaps in coverage routinely exist throughout the Bay, so recruitment/training (via both periodic workshops and special arrangement) is ongoing.
Anyone interested may volunteer; local residents having year-round access to shorelines (or habitual beach walkers) are especially encouraged to join the program.
To become a SEANET volunteer, please email Research Associate Jamie Bogart at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (508) 990-0505 ext. 23.