Los Farallones

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


We arrived to the island in Farallon Style this year with the wonderful contribution of Freda B, her lovely crew and skipper Paul Dines. Freda B came equipped with an onboard cook who spoiled us the entire way. Luckily the seas cooperated and no one was sea sick on the way out to the island. Meaning we were able to enjoy the tasty food. Thanks so much for making it a great trip out Freda B!

Freda B putting sails up at East Landing with SEFI in the background.

The first two weeks on the island have been dominated by orientation and safety training. There is much to learn with respect to the ins and outs of life on the island, getting to know the facilities and infrastructure and understanding how we operate while keeping safety in mind. Also, we have a lot of responsibility surrounding our landing operations so much time is given to becoming aware of standard operating procedures. Once the team has been trained up on logistics it is onward to biological protocol and data collection. But first and foremost,
Team introductions: 
– Ryan Berger, Lead Farallon Biologist for the Winter Season 
It is hard to believe that Ryan will be entering his 5th season as the lead winter biologist. Time really does fly when you’re having fun! This year marks a decade of marine mammal research that Ryan has performed in his professional career. Starting in 2004 with a focus on manatee behavior, Ryan obtained a Masters in Biology from Georgia Southern University; then went on to work for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) rescuing sick and injured marine mammals and performing necropsies on deceased animals; and finally ending up with Point Blue’s Farallon program leading up long term population demography studies on the island’s breeding Northern elephant seals. He is also trained in large whale disentanglement and has spent two seabird seasons as a biologist on the island. The diversity of wildlife and work here keep him coming back for more!

Ryan driving the SAFE boat on a calm and sunny day at the island.
  -Amanda Hooper, SEFI Winter Research Assistant
Growing up on the coast of Southern California, Amanda Hooper has always had an interest in marine mammals. After graduating from the University of Oregon in 2013 (B.S. Biology, Marine Emphasis), she returned home to the Los Angeles area to study Bottlenose Dolphins with the Coastal Dolphins of Orange County Project. Last winter, Amanda lived on Guafo Island, Chile studying the population of Southern Fur Seals that breed there. She is really excited to be a member of the SEFI winter team this season and can’t wait for things to really get busy when the cows arrive and start to pup!
Amanda with a fur seal pup while conducting research on Guafo Island.
  -James Robbins, SEFI Winter Research Assistant
James has also joined the team, who is originally from Edinburgh, Scotland; although has spent time throughout the UK, gaining an undergraduate degree in zoology in England, and a masters in marine biology in Ireland. His previous research has primarily focused on cetaceans, ranging from behavioural sightings work with the University of Aberdeen, to passive acoustic studies and methodology improvements with the Coastal Marine Research Centre. He is enjoying the change of pace, going from sitting atop cliffs to being more active and hands on studying the colony of elephant seals as more individuals arrive. Previously his experience with pinnipeds has been limited to sightings of individual grey and common seals in coastal waters, and pups rehabilitated at an Irish centre, so living next to hundreds of individuals is quite an experience!
James on a bottlenose dolphin photo-id trip in Cromarty, Scotland.
-Aymeric Fromant, SEFI Winter Research Assistant
Joining us from France for his first elephant seal field season, Aymeric completed his post graduate and honours in the University of Brest (France) with a master in  Marine Sciences and Biology. During these studies he was most interested in the ecology, biology and conservation. Aymeric has been involved in a variety of work, travel, and volunteer experiences primarily focusing on the ecology of marine mammals and seabirds. He spends few months in New Zealand to study the distribution of Orcas, Southern Right whales and Hector’s dolphins. In addition, he worked one year in the CEBC in Chizé (France) studying the ecotoxicoly on various seabird species from the Kerguelen Islands. Lastly, he also worked one year of the field for different projects relating to marine mammals in Australia, Iceland and France. Back home in french mountains, since 2005, Aymeric works on an eco-friendly house project. So far he loves marine mammal sciences and is really excited to join the SEFI Winter team.
Aymeric on the left with field colleagues in some far off region of the world.
-R.J. Roush, SEFI Spring-Summer-Fall-Winter Research Assistant
Sadly we are losing the Fall season’s burrowing owl intern, R.J. Roush, who has been the carry over intern into the Winter season as well.  R.J. has been out on the island for Spring/Summer seabird season, Fall land bird season and a portion of the Winter elephant seal season.  We will miss his experience and appreciate all the hard work he has done for us. After spending some time at home in Santa Rosa, CA for the Holidays R.J. will be working on a point count and bird banding project in Belize for 3 months. Best of luck with the project and have fun!
R.J. with a Barn Owl her captured this past Fall.
-Vanessa Delnavaz, SEFI Winter Research Assistant
Vanessa will be joining us in early January when we will make a proper introduction at that time.
We have started in to our daily routines out here on the island and are happy to say that the first pregnant elephant seal cow of the season arrived on Thursday December 18th2014. We hope to have our first pup of the season just before Christmas. Check back shortly to get an update as to what we have been up to out here on Southeast Farallon Islands!