Few students get to see the world from a bird’s eye view like William Smith junior Elizabeth Zinsser. Throughout this past summer, Zinsser interned with the Puffin Project at the National Audubon Society’s Seabird Restoration Program. On Thursday, Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. in the Finger Lakes Classroom, Zinsser will join Steve Kress P’07, P’10, founder and director of the Seabird Restoration Program, to review what Audubon has learned from their research and why Project Puffin is important.
“Liz is the fourth student from HWS who has participated in this project during the summer,” explained Associate Professor of Biology Mark Deutschlander. “It’s a truly unique internship that allows students to live on an island out in the ocean, camping with colonies of seabirds to help Project Puffin’s effort to reintroduced puffins and other seabirds to several Gulf of Maine islands.”
Deutschlander encourages any students who are interested in the internship to attend the event with Zinsser and Kress in the Finger Lakes Institute. “They can learn firsthand about life on the islands, what they can expect for research opportunities and be able to meet the project director, Steve Kress.”
This summer, a fifth HWS student will be selected to participate in the program as part of the summer science program. That student could very well be working side-by-side with Zinsser herself, Deutschlander said, explaining that, “Liz’s experiences last summer were so successful that she will return this coming summer as a resident intern hired directly by the Audubon Society.”
The National Audubon Society started Project Puffin in 1973 as an effort to learn how to restore puffins to historic nesting islands in the Gulf of Maine. Now after more than 30 years of operation, the project has successfully reintroduced the birds using techniques such as chick transplantation and foster parenting gull and vegetation control use of decoys and tape recordings of courtship sounds broadcast from the islands.
Project Puffin is central to this reintroduction because the restoration of seabird colonies takes years of persistent work since so many factors influencing success are beyond the control of researchers. Young puffins must find ample food and clean waters while avoiding predators. Unfortunately, oil spills, depleted fish stocks, entanglement in fishing nets and predation by gulls decrease the number of surviving birds.