Among the most fascinating and secretive of all seabirds, Marbled and Kittlitz's murrelets have rapidly declined in recent decades due to climate change, habitat loss, logging, and other factors.
Both birds inhabit coastal waters during the winter, moving inland to nest in old-growth stands (Marbled) or on glaciers and mountain peaks (Kittlitz's). Because these birds lead dual lives--between ocean waters and inland nests--they are susceptible to pressures and changes in both of these fragile ecosystems. The murrelet has thus become the new "poster child" for environmental debates, including old-growth logging and climate change.
Few seabirds have generated more controversy, elicited more lawsuits, had more economic impact, or inspired more extreme environmental activism than these murrelets. With murrelet populations diminished and human impacts increasing, murrelets will likely command our attention for decades to come.
More about the speaker:
John Piatt got hooked on seabirds in 1973 after spending a week on Great Island, Newfoundland-- site of the largest Leach's Storm-petrel and Atlantic Puffin colony in the Northwest Atlantic. Lured to Alaska in 1987 by the opportunity to study auklets at St. Lawrence Island, and now working at the USGS Alaska Science Center in Anchorage, John has spent the past 27 years studying seabirds, forage fish and marine ecosystems in Alaska and the North Pacific, as well as glacial influence, effects of oil spills, and marine variability. John has maintained a special interest in the ecology of Marbled and Kittlitz’s murrelets, and studied aspects of their breeding biology, foraging ecology, population dynamics, genetics and biogeography, and has been author on more than 50 published articles and reports on murrelets.
John shares his fascination of Auk seabirds with his wife, Nancy Naslund. They currently reside in Port Townsend, WA, on the Flying Auk Ranch, alongside a menagerie of dogs, cats, birds, guinea pigs, rabbits, ducks, chickens, and four (rescued) horses.