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Our Ducks are Wired! Joint Effort in Sea Duck Conservation at Pinola Conservatory

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Our ducks are wired!

Pinola was thrilled to host two seasoned waterfowl researchers this week, and to assist them on their current endeavors in sea duck conservation. Tony Roberts, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan Coordinator for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Dustin Meattey, the Director of Waterfowl Program for the Biodiversity Research Institute have just wrapped up a week long stay with us here at Pinola where they dedicated their time to carefully placing lightweight satellite telemetry attachments onto several of our sea ducks.

These attachments contain many useful devices such as accelerometers that record and send vital data on the ducks’ behavior back to the researchers faster and more efficiently than previously used methods and are less invasive to place onto the ducks. Additionally the packs are powered by solar panels on the back of the device. This means smaller batteries and thus less weight, and ultimately, less strain on the ducks in the wild, ensuring their long-term welfare.

The data provided by these attachments will go a long way into establishing long term solutions for combating some of the numerous threats faced by sea ducks. Habitat loss, warming temperatures, increasing off-shore development, invasive species encroaching and decimating food sources, and water contaminants all pose real threats to sea duck populations, as Roberts put it, “a kind of death by a thousand cuts.” Notably, they hope to gain more insight on how proposed off-shore wind power could potentially affect the ducks.

Off-shore wind turbines could have both positive and negative effects on sea ducks. Whereas the blades themselves are potential problems for other avian species, such as shorebirds that fly over the facilities at a high altitude, sea ducks fly at a much lower height and don’t face the same danger. Additionally, the turbines often gather small reefs around their base which is an excellent food source for the ducks. Only time and more research will tell if these off-shore wind farms are ultimately a net positive overall for the sea ducks.

The researchers were excited to be able to work so closely with the sea ducks here at Pinola, particularly because our ducks are able to behave as closely as possible to how they would in their natural environments. We were honored to be chosen to assist in this important work, and look forward to how Pinola can further help with this vital research in what is no doubt the start of a long-term conservation effort into making sure North America’s sea duck populations stay healthy for generations to come.

Be sure to check out the whole interview coming out later this week!

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