Stephen Kress will speak about his experiences in conservation and restoration of endangered seabirds, and the ethical considerations that surround endangered species and human interactions, at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 21, at the Finger Lakes Institute, 601 South Main St.
Kress is vice president for bird conservation for the National Audubon Society and Manager of the Society's Maine Coast Seabird Sanctuaries. As the director of Audubon's Seabird Restoration program, he develops techniques for managing colonial nesting seabirds. He received his Ph.D. from Cornell University and is currently a Research Fellow at Cornell, where he teaches a popular course in field ornithology. He is the ornithology program director for the Audubon Camp in Maine. Kress is also the father of Hobart sophomore Nathan Kress.
Kress is visiting campus as part of a new relationship between Hobart and William Smith Colleges and the Audubon Society. This marks the first year that Hobart and William Smith Colleges will support Audubon's Seabird Restoration Program (a.k.a. Project Puffin) through a dedicated student internship. This summer one student will be chosen to participate as a student intern with Dr. Kress' program, which will add an additional intern to the staff for Project Puffin.
The National Audubon Society started Project Puffin in 1973 in an effort to learn how to restore puffins to historic nesting islands in the Gulf of Maine. At that time, literally all the puffin eggs in Maine were in two baskets, or on two islands. Although plentiful at one time, puffins had been over hunted as source of food and feathers for ladies hats. Although Atlantic puffins are not listed as an endangered species (they are abundant in Newfoundland, Iceland, and Britain), they are rare in Maine.
Now in its 31st year of operation, Project Puffin, has successfully reintroduced puffins, and other seabirds, to several Gulf of Maine islands 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. These methods are also proving useful for helping endangered seabirds in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador (Dark-rumped Petrels), California (Common Murres) and Quebec (Northern Gannets).
Restoration of seabird colonies takes years of persistent work, since so many factors influencing success are beyond the control of researchers. For example, 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. Considering these odds, the establishment of new puffin and tern colonies through active management is especially exciting.
Students interested in an internship with Project Puffin should contact Mark Deutschlander, associate professor biology. Deutschlander is the HWS liaison for this program and can provide applications and information to students. Applications for this year's internship are due on Feb. 25. More information about Project Puffin can be found at www.projectpuffin.org.