Lisa White ’05, the first HWS intern on the coast of Maine as part of the Audubon Society’s “Project Puffin,” has had more than her share of wet and wild weather since commencement.
Before the summer even began, an extreme storm in May set back the breeding in puffins and razorbills, which seem to have recovered; the terns were badly affected by tropical storm Cindy in early July.
The best news from Stratton Island, which is owned by the Audubon Society, is that Least Terns are breeding there for the first time in history, and seem to be doing well. Stratton and the other islands being studied offer protection from predators that threaten mainland nesting areas. Least terns are an endangered species in Maine.
The research project, started by the National Audubon Society in 1973, involves restoring the puffin to its traditional nesting islands several miles off the Maine coast. In 1973, all the puffin eggs in Maine were in two sites: Matinicus Rock and Machias Seal Island, and those colonies were vulnerable to a disaster such as an oil spill, or accidental establishment of predators such as rats or mink.
Restoration of seabird colonies takes years of persistent work, since so many factors influencing success are beyond the control of researchers. Young birds must find ample food and clean water while avoiding predators, and oil spills, depleted fish stocks, entanglement in fishing nets and predation by gulls all decrease the number of surviving birds.
Project Puffin has a year-round staff of seven, which grows to include more than 50 biologists, interns and researchers during the seabird breeding season in spring and summer.
White’s project is supported by the Provost’s office, and is in conjunction with Stephen Kress [P’07, P’10], a research fellow at Cornell University and vice president for bird conservation and manager of the Maine Coast Seabird Sanctuaries for the National Audubon Society. He is the father of rising junior Nathan Kress.
Mark Deutschlander, HWS assistant professor of biology, coordinates the internship, which he initiated. The internship is expected to continue for two more summers, when additional HWS students and graduating seniors may be involved.
White, who double majored in environmental science and biology, was a member of the crew and soccer teams, and was named to the dean’s list. during the internship, she is also studying the birds’ behavior and watching several dozen nests as the young birds hatch, grow and prepare to leave. Her internship ends in mid-August.
Details on the project are available by visiting www.projectpuffin.org/island_news.html.