Projects: Seabird Research

Seabird Research

I am an expert in the foraging ecology and breeding biology of marine birds, in particular alcids and gadfly petrels. My research has taken me to remote islands off the British Columbia coast, the Galápagos Islands, and to the Robinson Crusoe Islands in Chile.

Since 1987, I have studied birds at sea and on their breeding colonies. Using a combination of field observations, long-term banding, bird-borne data loggers and remote sensing data, my research has answered questions related to life history tradeoffs, response to oceanographic conditions, identification of key foraging habitats, and the spatial-temporal overlap with commercial fisheries.


From Haida Gwaii to Vancouver Island, I have studied ancient murrelets and other alcids in their breeding locations and at-sea. These studies support questions related to nest site fidelity, oceanic variability, introduced predators, life history, and fisheries bycatch.

Fisheries Bycatch

I have worked with government agencies, fishermen, and the at-sea observer programs to assess rates, develop observer materials, write national policy and develop new regulations to reduce the incidental catch of seabirds in commercial fisheries.

Gadfly Petrels

Gadfly Petrels

This research was the first of its kind to study the provisioning strategy of the Juan Fernández Petrels during breeding, a medium-sized gadlfy petrel endemic to Isla Alejandro Selkirk, Chile.

Introduced Species

On many seabird colonies, there are introduced predators. My research has included studying the effects of introduced species on nesting seabirds as well as the effect of introduced herbivores, like deer, on island ecosystems.

Island Restoration

I am very interested in the science of island restoration, particularly in the role of seabirds on island ecosystems and the change in plant communities with and without predator pressure. My research has contributed to the science of island restoration in Canada, USA, Chile and tropical Pacific.

Marine Ecosystems - Monitoring

Long-term Monitoring

I have worked with government agencies and non-governmental agencies in Canada and the USA to develop, revise or inform long-term monitoring programs for seabirds, other marine species, and terrestrial ecosystems.

Northeast Pacific Ocean

A 9,000 km voyage from the Galapagos Islands to Vancouver Island, BC presented a unique opportunity to collect a remarkable dataset from 0° to 48° N. Seabirds data were combined with remote sensing data to describe the distinct marine bird communities along this unusual ocean transect.

Seabird Research - Plastics


Plastic consumption in seabirds is gaining increasing attention as spatial documentation, chick mortalities and concerns about toxins increase in the scientific and environmental communities.

Seabird Research Guides - Jo Smith

Seabird ID cards

Educational outreach is an important component of reducing the incidental catch of seabirds in commercial fisheries. Beginning in 2002, two seabird identification guides were developed with a retired commercial fishermen to inform the fishery about birds most at risk of being caught in gillnets or demersal longline.

Policy - Species at Risk

Species at Risk

The albatrosses and shearwaters are most at risk in BC from incidental longline mortality. I have worked with government agencies to document threats to marine birds and quantify these threats for species at risk or candidate species.