SEA Days: Birds of a Feather 2017

Every month, the third Saturday is a special day at Birch Aquarium: SEA Days!

As the tagline suggests, SEA Days are always full of  “Science, Exploration and Adventure.” Visitors and members can meet a Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego scientist or other local researcher and get hands-on with science, participate in activity stations, and get creative with a thematic craft.

Name: Dr. Trevor Joyce, Ph.D.

Hometown: Currently San Diego, California (born in Vancouver, B.C., Canada)

Schooling Background:
I completed my undergraduate degree in 2005 at University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau, Alaska, with an intervening year of studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, B.C. After my undergraduate studies I worked for five years on several conservations projects in Panama, Alaska, and Hawaii, before starting my Ph.D. in Biological Oceanography at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 2010. I completed my Ph.D. in 2016 and am currently a postdoctoral scholar with Oregon State University and the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

1 word to describe a characteristic a scientist must have: Curiosity! (also enthusiasm and tenacity)

To study seabird behavior and how they fit into the marine ecosystem, Dr. Joyce has traveled to Alaska, Hawaii, Kauai, the Central Pacific Ocean, and the Antarctic Peninsula.


How does seabird research affect a person’s everyday life?

When most people open a can of tuna they may be unaware that they are consuming a product that was often caught with the help of seabirds. Many fishermen, both commercial and recreational, use the keen fish-finding skills and aerial perspective of seabirds to hone in on the best places to fish by tracking flocks visually or using radar. Conversely many seabirds are injured and/or die from bycatch and incidental interactions with fisheries. A key role of seabird research is to try to understand these interactions and find ways to achieve better food sustainability by reducing fisheries impacts on seabird populations.

How did you decide to work on this particular issue?

I got my start in seabird research as a volunteer during the first summer of my undergraduate studies on a seabird monitoring project in the remote Aleutian Chain west of Alaska. From this initial start I’ve had amazing opportunities to participate in research projects from Alaska, to the low-lying Northwest Hawaiian Islands, the mountains of Kauai, the open ocean of the Central Pacific, and the Antarctic Peninsula. I think seabirds are important and often overlooked component of marine ecosystems, and my research strives to better understand distribution and abundance patterns to hopefully better conserve their populations in the future.

Dr. Joyce and team must trek through exceptional environments in order to find the seabirds they study.


How do you predict the story of seabirds will change in the future?

There have been important strides in recent years to address two of the major conservation challenges facing many seabird populations: predatory mammals (e.g., rats, mice, cats, foxes, and pigs) that have been intentionally or inadvertently introduced to seabird breeding colony islands, and by-catch in commercial fishing gear. This important progress has led to the recovery of many seabird populations around the globe, and will continue to foster population growth in the future. Unfortunately, there remain important unresolved challenges for many other seabird populations including: 1) the difficulty of removing invasive predators from human-inhabited islands (e.g., Hawaii, New Zealand), 2) the increasing lethality of less-regulated artisanal fishing gear, 3) the direct competition for dwindling fish stocks with human fisheries, and 4) finally, the unpredictable ecological disruptions of human-induced climatic change.

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Scripps Institution of Oceanography UC San Diego