Los Farallones

Dispatches from Point Blue’s field station on the Farallon Islands National Wildlife Refuge

Introducing the 2019 Seabird Crew

By: Sophia Prisco

And we’re off! The 2019 seabird season has begun on the Southeast Farallon Island. Many thousands of murres, cormorants, auklets, puffins, and gulls have arrived to build their nests and raise their young…and the crew couldn’t be more excited. Just a few days ago we discovered our first Rhinoceros Auklet egg during a routine box check, while many Cassin’s Auklets have begun their incubation duties. With the island all a flutter with commotion, you need hearty biologists to wake up and collect that data! Luckily, we have just that. And here they are, the current 2019 summer seabird crew:

Mike Johns: Summer Lead Biologist

Mike Johns is one of the Farallon Island program biologists with Point Blue. This is his 5th season on SEFI and 3rd season as the summer seabird biologist. He is in the process of finishing his PhD at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he studies the life-history and winter dispersal patterns of Cassin’s Auklets on the Farallones. Mike has no self control when it comes to Oreos…especially the golden ones.

Grace Kumaishi: 2019 Year-round Farallon Intern

After graduating from UCLA in 2017, Grace  began working at Point Blue as a Marine Laboratory Research Assistant. Her research interests include animal environmental physiology and anthropogenic effects on marine ecosystems. Grace now joins the SEFI spring/summer crew as the year-long Farallon Program Research Intern. She can be heard singing ‘Take me Home, Country Roads’ from all areas of the island.

Haley Land-Miller: Spring/Summer Research Assistant

Haley graduated from Pomona College in 2018.  Before joining the seabird team, she was a field intern with the Monterey Bay Aquarium studying wild sea otters. She loves coastal California ecosystems, and is particularly interested in food webs and the effects of climate change. She’s super excited to get to know the seabirds and other animals on SEFI and can’t wait for chicks to hatch!

Theresa Rizza: Summer/Fall Research Assistant

Theresa Rizza is an ornithologist, archer, and amateur botanist from the San Francisco Bay area. She studied biology at Northern Arizona University and holds a certificate in wildlife ecology and management. She enjoys birding and camping in both the Pacific Northwest and Arizona deserts. She’s also keen on making midnight Bagels.

Sophia Prisco: Winter/Spring Research Assistant

Sophia graduated from College of the Atlantic with a degree in Human Ecology and concentration in  Wildlife Biology in 2018. She conducted her senior thesis in New Zealand, working with Yellow-eyed Penguins, New Zealand Sea Lions, Kiwi, and Kaka. She spent the 2019 Winter season on SEFI and has loved watching the island change as the seabird season began. Though the research focus has switched to seabirds, she still finds time to visit the elephant seals.

Amanda Spears: Spring Research Assistant

This is Amanda’s second seabird season on the Farallons, though she has had the privilege to experience some of the passerine and pinniped work that occurs on the island in the fall and winter months. She graduated from the University of Vermont in 2015, and is currently exploring her interest in avian ecology and conservation through a myriad of positions as a field biologist before settling in for her graduate degree.

Amy Miles: PhD Student    

Amy is a 3rd year PhD student at the University of California Davis who is conducting her research on SEFI seabirds. She is interested in behavior and physiology in birds, especially during the breeding season. She is doing projects on Ashy Storm-petrels and Cassin’s Auklets. She loves telling stories of Thorvald Bartameous-Bootles Hogwallops – The Destroyer…her cat.

Chris Tyson: PhD Student

Chris is a PhD candidate in the Ecology Graduate Group at the University of California, Davis. For his dissertation, he is researching the behavioral benefits of long-term partnerships in several seabird species. While we know that pairs which stay together longer tend to be more reproductively successful, it is unclear what specific behaviors improve as pairs become more experienced. In hopes of answering this question, he is investigating whether various breeding behaviors differ between newly formed and experienced pairs of Cassin’s Auklets on Southeast Farallon Island. When not confined to seabird islands, he enjoys brewing beer and running.