The 2019 Alaska Bird Conference was held in Fairbanks 4–8 March 2019, with sponsorship and participation from ABR. We were excited to attend sessions, present talks, and even help lead a workshop on using unmanned aerial systems (UAS, or drones) to study birds.
Disaster struck 30 years ago on 24 March 1989 when the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground on Bligh Reef, a charted rocky area outside the designated shipping lane at the mouth of Valdez Arm in Prince William Sound, Alaska. The Exxon Valdez spilled approximately 11 million gallons of crude oil from the Prudhoe Bay, which was scattered by wind and waves over some 1,300 miles of coastline. At the time, it was the worst maritime oil spill in U.S. waters, only surpassed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The impact was immediate and dramatic, with oil-drenched wildlife appearing on the front pages and nightly news of major and minor media outlets. The death toll for marine mammals, birds, fish, and other marine life will never be known with accuracy, but estimates were in the hundreds of thousands for birds and marine mammals alone. The impacts on commercial fishing and tourism were devastating.
ABR’s commitment to environmental stewardship is reaching new heights—7.6 meters to be exact—in the form of a newly installed solar power system. The installation consists of three 14-panel, pole-mounted arrays on the north side of our main office parking lot. The 265 watt SunSpark solar panels equate to a total array capacity of 11,130 watts using 21 microinverters each. The arrays are manually adjustable for a 45 degree summer angle and an 85 degree winter angle to optimize power generation. Every electron that we produce will be used on site by ABR or will feed into the Golden Valley Electric Association’s (GVEA) grid. By using the power on site, we will save on GVEA’s kilowatt costs, also known as net metering.
Congrats to Senior Scientist Rick Johnson and co-authors Alex Prichard (ABR Senior Scientist), Ann Wildman (ABR emeritus), and Caryn Rea (ConocoPhillips Alaska) on their forthcoming Journal of Wildlife Management article, “Territory Occupancy by Breeding Yellow-billed Loons near Oil Development.” Their findings suggest that breeding pairs and broods of Yellow-billed Loons (Gavia adamsii) on the Colville River delta are resilient to levels of human activity at recently constructed oilfield facilities. The article is available on line; you can read it by clicking on this link. See also a summary of the article on our website here.
Just getting to St. Matthew and Hall islands is an adventure. Senior Scientist Aaron Wells made the journey as part of a multidisciplinary biological expedition to this most remote place in Alaska, located in the middle of the Bering Sea and over 200 miles from the nearest village. In early June 2018, Aaron flew from Fairbanks to St. Paul, Alaska. From there, he and the rest of the field crew boarded the R/V Tiglax (TEKH-lah — Aleut for eagle) for a 25-hour boat ride to the islands where they would spend the next two weeks conducting wildlife and vegetation surveys.