Stephen Mugel ’13 spent most of his summer living on and traveling among islands off the coast of Maine. Mugel wasn’t on a resort vacation; he was an intern for Project Puffin working with field biologists and other research assistants. While living on the islands, he studied and worked to protect endangered bird species including roseate arctic and common terns, Atlantic puffins, guillemots, razorbills, and murre.
“I chose to do this because I wanted to get some field experience working in biology and ecology, and also puffins are beautiful birds,” says Mugel, who this semester is studying abroad in Copenhagen. “I now know that we really can make a difference to help shrinking wild populations. I believe that I helped the birds and that our presence and ongoing research and monitoring have been vital to the booming growth of both Puffins and Terns on these coastal islands.”
His work included performing feeding studies, banding and weighing chicks, measuring growth and productivity, and maintaining the island’s balanced ecosystems.
Project Puffin is a seabird restoration project run in coordination with the Audubon Society, an organization that focuses on the conservation of wildlife, particularly birds. Project Puffin was started in 1973 in response to the extremely low puffin population in Maine. Although puffins are abundant in other parts of the world, they are very rare in the state of Maine. The project is based in Ithaca, N.Y., at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Todd Wildlife Sanctuary on mid-coast Maine.
“I absolutely loved this experience and can see myself doing something like this in the future,” Mugel says.
On campus, Mugel is a biology major and a Cognition, Language and Logic Minor. He is a member of Kappa Alpha Society, Chimera Honors society, the club hockey team, and the club soccer team. He received the First Year Academic Achievement Award and is the recipient of the Richard H. Hersh Trustee Scholarship. After graduation, he plans to attend graduate school to study conservation biology.