Wildlife biologists Martin Raphael and Tom Bloxton, with the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, used radio telemetry—the first study of its kind in Washington—to develop a detailed picture of the challenges faced by marbled murrelets. Teresa Lorenz analyzed the resulting data to gain further insights into the ecology of these elusive birds.
Between 2004 and 2008, the scientists captured 157 murrelets in their marine feeding grounds, fitted them with transmitters, and tracked their movements. They wanted to gain a better understanding of the birds’ nesting habitat, and as a result, be able to provide information that can contribute to conservation plans.
They found that factors on land and on water may be responsible for murrelet decline. Human activity on the water, coupled with the changing ocean conditions, likely affected the abundance of fish in the water. On land, a continuing decrease in nesting habitat is resulting in fewer nests, leading to lower rates of reproduction and a smaller population size. Although murrelet habitat in federal forests is protected, these areas tend to be farther inland than unprotected private and state forests in northwest Washington.