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Eadaoin Kelly

Effects of Research Disturbance Levels on 5-Day-Old
Black-Legged Kittiwake Chicks

Eadaoin Kelly ’22
Stephanie Lin, Sierra Pete, Scott Hatch, Z Morgan Benowitz-Fredericks
Faculty Mentor(s):
Morgan Benowitz-Fredericks, Biology and Animal Behavior
Funding Source:
Biology Department

The ability to closely monitor and manipulate marked populations of seabirds is invaluable for ecological research and conservation efforts. A reconfigured radar tower on Middleton Island, Alaska provides accessible semi-artificial nesting sites for black-legged kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla). However, long-term researcher disturbance may affect seabird physiology, as disturbed and undisturbed birds may not be directly comparable in studies. We tested effects of researcher disturbance on kittiwake chicks by categorizing disturbance levels as “high”, “medium”, and “low” based on researcher activities at 3 locations. A subset of the high disturbance birds were supplementally fed (whole fish ad libitum 3x/day). A (N=77) and B (N=77) chicks were measured after being bled in <3min when the A chick was 5 days old. Regurgitation was noted if produced during measurements. Whole-blood glucose and ketones were measured with handheld point-of-care (POC) meters; glucose was further measured with plasma in the lab. Despite being validated in adult kittiwakes, glucose values of the chicks from handheld meters did not show good concordance with lab-measured glucose (R2=0.08). Red blood cells were used for genetic sexing in the lab.
Disturbance levels significantly impacted body condition in low and high-unfed A chicks, but there was no significant difference between that of low and high-fed A chicks. Blood metabolites do not reflect body condition or disturbance category. Chicks of the low disturbance area regurgitated significantly more than the chicks of any other disturbance category.

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