My research interests began in the 1960s with investigations of the behavioral and reproductive ecology of gulls in coastal Maine, southern California, and British Columbia. Initial questions centered on why birds in some colonies were more successful at raising young than those in other colonies. This work progressed to questions about the causes of differential reproductive success among birds in the same colony, and culminated in review papers on the evolution of coloniality.
In the course of this early work and subsequent work on the Pribilof Islands, Bering Sea, it became apparent that interannual variability in the availability of prey near colonies had an overwhelming impact on reproductive performance. Interest in the control of foraging opportunities in the vicinity of colonies led to at-sea studies of the interactions of physical and biological processes that allow seabirds to exploit prey. This work was conducted in a variety of locations including the Bering Sea, the Barents Sea, the North Water Polynya, and the Southern Ocean.
More recently, my research interests have broadened to include ecosystem-level investigations of spatial and temporal variability in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands marine ecosystems. These collaborative interdisciplinary studies have included investigation of the causes of spatial heterogeneity in the distribution, abundance and foraging ecology of marine birds in the Aleutian Archipelago and the mechanisms and ecological significance of the inner front of the southeastern Bering Sea and how its role in supporting marine birds is affected by climate variability. Current projects include an investigation of how variability in the cross-shelf advection of nutrients and zooplankton affect shelf ecosystems, in particular those near the Pribilof Islands.
A major focus of my recent work has been the development of Science Plans for the new regional International GLOBEC program, Ecosystem Studies of Sub-Arctic Seas (ESSAS) and its United States component, the Bering Ecosystem Study (BEST) program. The Science Plan for ESSAS is available online.
The BEST Science and Implementation Plans are also available online. The Sub-Arctic seas, including the Bering Sea, are the major sources of seafood for the nations bordering them, and are also critical resources for indigenous people dependent on subsistence resources. These regions are expected to be among the most severely impacted by global warming because they encompass the marginal ice zone. Both ESSAS and BEST focus on how climate variability will impact the ability of these marine ecosystems to provide sustainable goods and services, and on how the expected changes in the marine ecosystems of these seas will impact the people and cultures dependent upon them. Fieldwork in BEST is anticipated to begin in spring 2007, and will be a contribution to the International Polar Year (IPY) program.