Confirmed Symposia Sessions

WSC3 includes a variety of symposia sessions throughout the conference.  Note some symposia sessions take place over multiple time zones and days.

To find out more about the symposia sessions, please review the details below.

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Confirmed Symposia

The confirmed symposia are listed below in alphabetical order by title. More information regarding the leaders of the symposium and a short synopsis can be found by clicking the yellow +.

Symposium 1

October 5 12:00 – 14:00 UTC
October 5 14:15 – 16:15 UTC
October 5 22:00 – 24:00 UTC

Conservation physiology in seabirds: Understanding mechanisms, causes and consequences in a changing world
Ruth Dunn, University of Liverpool; Jonathan Green, University of Liverpool; Brendon Dunphy, The University of Auckland; Kyle Elliot, McGill University; Sasah Kitaysky, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska

Recent assessments of species and ecosystem responses to environmental change have highlighted an urgent need to better understand the mechanistic links between the patterns of change, individual responses, and population processes. Without this link our ability to assess the vulnerability of seabird populations to environmental stressors, such as contaminants, disease, overfishing and re-organization of trophic food webs, and to establish effective management programs is severely limited. Conservation physiology is a rapidly growing field, and there is considerable scope to apply its recent developments to seabird conservation issues. The 21st century has seen the development of new metabolic, endocrine and molecular approaches that allow detailed quantification of physiological traits in free-living birds, bringing the study of physiology out of the laboratory and into the wild. For example, recent work measuring fine-scale energetics has illustrated how many applied problems in conservation boil down to issues of energy intake or energy output. Endocrine and molecular markers of exposure to stressful events during different stages of the annual cycle provide insight into physiological carry-over effects on patterns of survival and reproduction. Developments in the field of historical ecophysiology allow us to examine individual seabird responses to climate change on a millennial scale. Such approaches have the potential to identify when, where, and why seabird populations are vulnerable before catastrophe strikes, thus vastly improving our conservation efforts. This symposium will focus on the potential of physiology to provide mechanistic answers to applied conservation questions from marine reserve design, to pollution monitoring, to seabirds as indicators of climate change responses. Speakers will be chosen to cover a range of techniques from the world of physiology, including oxidative damage, energetics, endocrinology, pollution and thermoregulation, and to cover a range of potential conservation issues.

Symposium 2

October 5 12:00 – 14:00 UTC


Fine scale seabird foraging behavior in relation to fisheries
Henri Weimerskirch, Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé; Scott A Shaffer, San Jose State University

Fisheries are operating worldwide and are attracting many seabird species that feed on offal and baits. But fisheries can induce high mortality rates to attending seabirds because of by-catch, collision or entanglement with gears. For these reasons there is an increasing interest in the study of seabird-fisheries interactions. However there is still much to understand about the factors affecting the fine scale foraging behavior in relation to the presence of boats, especially fishing vessels, and this becomes possible with the miniaturization and development of new loggers. Through a series of empirical studies we will examine the fine scale foraging behavior of seabirds in relation to the presence of vessels obtained by conventional positioning systems such as AIS, VMS and with new bio-logging systems allowing the detection of vessels. The critical questions addressed concern the detection distances, distinction between co occurrence and attendance, the differences between seabird families in the attraction and attendance patterns, the influence of local oceanic conditions on attendance patterns and how attraction to fishing vessels build up over the lifespan of seabirds.

Symposium 3

October 5 12:00 – 14:00 UTC
October 5 14:15 – 16:15 UTC
October 6 00:15 – 02:15 UTC
October 6 12:00 – 14:00 UTC

Unravelling fundamental processes in seabird ecology: The role of multi-colony studies
Sue Lewis, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology; Francis Daunt, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology; Richard Phillips, British Antarctic Survey; Sarah Wanless, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology; Ally Phillimore, University of Edinburgh

Research on seabird ecology has demonstrated remarkable variation among species and populations due to differences in intrinsic processes and environmental conditions. As a result, it has been challenging to unravel key ecological processes that underpin the relationship between seabirds and their environment, which has hampered our ability to make accurate forecasts of future population change. A powerful way of identifying key ecological processes is to undertake studies at multiple colonies or populations. Over the last decade, there has been a marked increase in this approach in a range of fields including population and foraging dynamics, including the first formal meta-analyses, providing robust insights into fundamental relationships. This symposium will showcase the latest research in this fast moving and critically important field.

Symposium 4

October 5 14:15 – 16:15 UTC
October 6 12:00 – 14:00 UTC
October 6 14:15 – 16:15 UTC

Marine renewables and seabirds: How can behavioural and ecological insights inform sustainable planning and development
Jared Wilson, Marine Scotland Science, Scottish Government; David M Pereksta, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management; Liz Humphreys, The British Trust for Ornithology

Marine renewable energy (wind, wave, and tidal) provide low-carbon energy contributing to national and international targets for increasing renewable energy production. These technologies have the potential to significantly affect a wide range of seabird species affecting demography directly via collision mortality and indirectly through displacement and barrier effects. To realise both conservation and renewable energy objectives it is essential that planning of renewable energy developments is informed by collective scientific knowledge of seabird ecology particularly: demography, distribution, movement and behaviour. This symposium will highlight how the latest behavioural and ecological research provides greater understanding of the impact of marine renewables to seabirds at both the individual and population level.

Symposium 5

October 5 22:00 – 24:00 UTC
October 6 00:15 – 02:15 UTC
October 6 22:00 – 24:00 UTC

Outcomes and progress of active seabird restoration projects
Eric VanderWerf, Pacific Rim Conservation; Lindsay Young, Pacific Rim Conservation

Translocation and social attraction are being used increasingly worldwide as tools to restore seabird populations and ecosystem functions. Particularly with the recent development of large scale predator eradication and exclusion techniques, pest-free islands and fenced sanctuaries are available as seabird breeding sites. However, due to the natal philopatry many seabirds exhibit, natural colonization of these newly restored sites by seabirds may occur slowly or not at all. To increase the colonization rate, managers have developed a variety of social attraction and translocation techniques. This symposium will present a series of case studies using social attraction and/or translocation to restore a variety of seabird taxa in different geographic regions, and the methods used to monitor outcomes of these efforts.

Symposium 6

October 5 22:00 – 24:00 UTC
October 6 00:15 – 02:15 UTC
October 6 14:15 – 16:15 UTC

Heatwave impacts on marine birds
John Piatt, USGS Alaska Science Center; Brad Congdon, James Cook University; Peter Dann, Philip Island Nature Parks; William Sydeman, Farallon Institute

Extreme temperature anomalies are increasing in frequency in all oceans and adjacent coastal regions of the world. The impact of extreme (in magnitude and/or duration) heating events on seabirds has been manifested widely in a variety of biological and behavioural phenomena, including mass mortality events, reproductive failures, reduced survival, shifts in phenology of breeding or migration, and shifts in distribution at sea. However, the actual mechanisms by which heating events affect seabirds are not as well described. In this symposium, we invite presentations that propose or demonstrate specific mechanisms of extreme heat impact. For example, physiological response of seabirds to anomalous heating during nesting, including secondary effects of rainfall, drought, or disease on nesting success; heat-induced changes in oceanography, productivity, forage nekton abundance and distribution, or forage composition and quality; increased competitive competition with large predatory fish and marine mammals; and any other mechanisms which ultimately lead to the more visible responses of seabirds to extreme heating.

Symposium 7

October 7 00:15 – 02:15 UTC

Adaptation and intervention as a climate response
Alistair Hobday, CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere; Rachael Alderman, DPIPWE

The impacts of climate variability, and now climate change, on seabird distribution, abundance and performance are widely documented. Many changes are also in remote locations, however, long term negative trends mean that business-as-usual conservation approaches are no longer sufficient. Managers and scientists should not be planning to simply continue to document long-term declines, and many are considering interventions to aid adaptation. These efforts can be interventions that directly reduce climate change impacts through reduction of direct exposure (e.g. artificial watering) or sensitivity (e.g. supplemental feeding) to the climate driver, or increase adaptive capacity (e.g. removal of invasive competitors). Climate adaptation efforts for a range of seabird species are now starting to be considered, trialled and integrated with management initiatives. In some cases, interventions have been developed for non-climate threats, and these experiences mean transfer for climate-motivated interventions is likely to be more successful. While a strong knowledge base to support intervention decisions is desirable, due to the rate of climate change some interventions will need to be trialled with imperfect knowledge, and learning will emerge through the deployment of the adaptation strategy. We seek contributions that discuss decision frameworks for adaptation and intervention, present action-oriented case studies, and provide examples of biological and ethical conflicts. This session will stimulate debate about the role of intervention in securing healthy seabird populations as climate rapidly changes the environment.

Symposium 8

October 7 12:00 – 14:00 UTC
October 7 14:15 – 16:15 UTC

Prey-mediated effects of environmental change on seabirds
Agnes Olin, Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde; Alexis Will, National Institute of Polar Research; Kat Keogan, University of Edinburgh

Changes in ocean conditions alter food-web dynamics, with impacts on lower trophic levels travelling up the food chain to affect top predators. Recent advancements in data collection methods and increased coordination between seabird biologists and oceanographers have improved our understanding of prey-mediated effects of environmental change on seabirds. It is time to pool our understanding of the mechanisms and patterns of environmentally driven changes in prey quantity, quality and phenology and how seabirds respond to these changes across food webs in disparate ocean basins. This proposed symposium will provide an opportunity to examine climate-associated food-web shifts from both the perspective of the prey, looking in detail at how prey responds to environmental change, and from the perspective of the seabirds themselves, using long-term data on foraging behaviour, diet, and chick-provisioning strategies to infer shifts at lower trophic levels. By bringing together the global community of researchers working on climate-driven changes in prey-seabird interactions, this symposium aims to identify global patterns in marine food web dynamics, to understand how and when changes in prey filter up to the level of seabirds, and to provide a starting point for discussing how to move towards a predictive framework for modelling seabird responses to climate change.

Symposium 9

October 7 12:00 – 14:00 UTC

Maintaining ecosystem services by seabirds - Role of local and indigenous communities and cultures
Mia Ronka, University of Turku; Martina Kadin, Swedish Museum of Natural History

The multidisciplinary symposium focuses on the ecosystem services provided by mainly Arctic seabirds, i.e. the benefits humans obtain from ecosystems involving seabirds. In the Arctic, the ecosystem services provided by seabirds may be of high value while potentially strongly affected by climate change and other human impacts. As culture changes, also new ecosystem services arise, including for instance nature tourism, or cultural ecosystem services formerly used may revive, e.g. in the form of a new interest in nature-based wisdom. Multidisciplinary approaches are needed to assess the importance of seabird ecosystem services and to address the ecological, socio-economic and cultural drivers affecting their management and conservation. The symposium consists of five presentations, starting with an introduction to ecosystem services provided by seabirds and related trade-offs and synergies, then deepening insights into cultural ecosystem services, and the role of traditional ecological knowledge, and local communities and cultures in ecosystem service assessment and management, as well as in ecosystem service related conflicts. In addition to regular oral presentations, the symposium includes short poster presentations. Presentations are followed by a comprehensive discussion, where the audience is invited to take part. In the discussion, we summarize current knowledge on seabird ecosystem services and its applicability to the Arctic, and discuss the generality of the conclusions of the symposium presentations for systems other than the Arctic. We also identify research needs, novel multidisciplinary aspects to ecosystem service assessment and management, and current and upcoming issues relevant to the management and conservation of ecosystem services and seabirds. In addition to this discussion and brainstorming the symposium will provide a forum for multidisciplinary networking on this theme.

Symposium 10

October 7 12:00 – 14:00 UTC

The ecology of host-parasite interactions in seabirds: Combining approaches to understand eco-epidemiological dynamics and inform conservation decisions
Thierry Boulinier, Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle and Evolutive (CEFE) – Université Montpellier; Sarah Burthe, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology; Amandine Gamble, University of California, Los Angeles

Seabirds are well known to be hosts of a diverse set of parasites and pathogens. Most seabird species are also widely distributed, migratory, long-lived, colonial and site faithful. Such characteristics mean seabirds are particularly relevant model systems for investigating host-parasite interactions, particularly the ecology and evolution of these interactions. In addition, infectious diseases have recently been identified as a major threat for several seabird groups such as procellariiformes and penguins. Seabird host-parasite interactions are thus an important field of bot basic science and conservation. However, understanding how parasites circulate among their hosts, and how they impact them rises numerous challenges. For instance, the unpredictability, suddenness and high mortality rates of some disease outbreaks, such as avian cholera, make it difficult to collect data from infected animals. On the contrary, more subtle chronic processes, such as the impact gut macro-parasites on energetic expenditure, can be difficult to detect. This symposium will highlight how combining approaches and methods can help undertaking these challenges while accounting for the ecological and evolutionary processes interacting with epidemiological dynamics. We will address the different steps of the scientific process from study design to result interpretation.

Symposium 11

October 7 14:15 – 16:15 UTC

Sea-ice and seabirds: An amphipolar perspective of the impacts on foraging and demography
Christophe Barbraud, CEBC-CNRS; Yan Ropert-Coudert, CEBC-CNRS

Sea-ice provides a unique ecosystem for seabirds as a breeding platform and as a major foraging habitat. As the extent and volume of global sea ice continues to decline, the importance of pagophilia will be an important component of the resilience of polar wildlife to change. The proposed symposium will make an overview of the effects of sea ice characteristics, variability and trends on the foraging ecology, demography and population dynamics of seabirds, at scales ranging from days to decades. A number of important long-term datasets (up to 50 years) will be presented, and data from long-term studies of behaviour and demography will be combined to assess mechanisms linking ice with population-level processes. The session will be organized to represent increasing spatio-temporal scales of study: from primary productivity and ice dynamics, to the behaviour and demography of seabirds. The session will gather experts from both poles into a common framework for examination of ice-obligate species.

Symposium 12

October 7 14:15 – 16:15 UTC
October 8 00:15 – 02:15 UTC

Sensory ecology: Foraging, reproduction and conservation
Gabrielle Nevitt, University of California, Davis; Greg Cunningham, St. John Fisher College

Seabirds use different sensory information for foraging and reproduction. Elucidating sensory mechanisms has proven to be beneficial in the conservation of a variety of organisms, including other avian taxa, yet this broad field of research remains understudied and underappreciated among seabird biologists.

We propose a symposium highlighting various aspects of the sensory ecology of seabirds with an aim towards educating the seabird community about recent discoveries that might have management or conservation implications as well, particularly in foraging contexts or in restoration.

Symposium 13

October 8 12:00 – 14:00 UTC

The importance of river plumes to seabirds and seabird prey
Jeannette Zamon, NOAA Fisheries; Elizabeth M. Phillips, NOAA Fisheries

The topic of river plumes being of potentially global importance as habitats that feed, attract, and support seabird abundance or diversity was presented at the 2nd World Seabird Conference. We propose a symposium to bring together seabird biologists and plume experts to explore this topic further at WSC3. Fifty of the world’s largest river plumes are spread out among 25 countries and occur in every major coastal habitat; therefore we expect broad interest in the influence of these physical ocean features. A better understanding of seabird-river plume associations has conservation implications given these habitats are potentially important yet sensitive foci for seabird foraging and migratory stops. To our knowledge, this would be the first time that a session focused on river plume-seabird interactions has been convened, and we envision presentations that address WSC3 theme ideas including importance of physical ocean structures, climate change responses and adaptations, seabird-fishery interactions, marine spatial ecology and planning, and marine protected areas.

Symposium 14

October 8 12:00 – 14:00 UTC
October 8 14:15 – 16:15 UTC
October 8 22:00 – 24:00 UTC

Seabird bycatch in commercial fisheries: Progress and challenges
Rory Crawford, BirdLife International Marine Programme; Stephanie Prince, BirdLife International Marine Programme; Pamela Michael, South Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit; Amanda Gladics, Oregon Sea Grant; Tom Good, NOAA

Seabird bycatch in fisheries remains the greatest threat to seabirds alongside Invasive Non-Native Species. Solutions are now well-established for trawl and longline fisheries and have been adopted in a number of fisheries to great effect, but broadscale implementation remains a barrier to improving the conservation status of threatened seabirds, perhaps most notably albatrosses. Given the vast at-sea ranges of many seabirds affected by fisheries, these implementation gaps – both in national waters and on the High Seas – need to be addressed as a matter of urgency. As well as shining a light on the success stories (and what has made them successful), this symposium will focus on the outstanding challenges that need to be addressed: from the fundamental basics (how to estimate bycatch levels from often low sampling effort and zero-inflated data) to the balance of ‘carrots’ and ‘sticks’ in achieving broader uptake, to tackling bycatch in other gear types, particularly gillnets and purse seines.

Symposium 15

October 8 12:00 – 14:00 UTC
October 8 14:15 – 16:15 UTC

Effects of wind and weather on seabird navigation, foraging and energetics
Thomas Clay, University of Liverpool; Richard Phillips, British Antarctic Survey; Lesley Thorne, Stony Brook University

Justification and description:
Weather, and particularly wind, shapes the movement, energetics, foraging behaviour, migration strategies and life history of seabirds. Wind affects both individual decisions and population processes through direct effects on flight costs (energetics) across a range of spatiotemporal scales. Climate change is already having widespread effects on global wind patterns, and its impact is predicted to increase; however, but the consequences for wildlife are not well understood. Understanding the mechanistic links between wind and other weather patterns, and seabird movement, energetics and life-history characteristics is critical to predicting how seabird populations will respond to future environmental changes.
This symposium welcomes studies that bring together recent developments in biologging, atmospheric modelling, and statistical or theoretical ecology, to better understand the effects of wind and other aspects of the weather (e.g. temperature, barometric pressure) on seabird foraging. Many studies in recent years have provided new insight into the impacts of wind on seabirds, and this symposium will serve as a forum to facilitate information transfer and collaboration between seabird researchers around the world.

Symposium 16

October 8 14:15 – 16:15 UTC
October 8 22:00 – 24:00 UTC

Applications of genomics to seabird conservation
Gemma Clucas, Cornell University; Vicki Friesen, Queen’s University

Conservation genetics has entered the world of genomics – broadly defined as high throughput sequencing of nucleic acids. These new technologies provide researchers with unprecedented levels of data to address many previously intractable problems in ecology, evolution and conservation. We propose to organize a symposium on applications of genomics to seabird conservation. We propose to give an opening overview of potential applications of genomic tools in conservation, then draw together examples of applications, including (but not limited to) defining population units for conservation, detecting hybridization and its effects, estimating population size, determining potential for species to adapt to anthropogenic environmental change, and improving understanding of ecological traits such as diet.

Symposium 17

October 8 22:00 – 24:00 UTC

The threat of marine debris to seabirds: Detangling the demonstrated from the perceived
Denise Hardesty, CSIRO; Lauren Roman, CSIRO/University of Tasmania

Marine debris is a recent and growing threat in the ocean environments. Seabirds are extensively known to interact with marine debris, and are affected by both entanglement and ingestion. There is widespread evidence of seabird and marine debris interactions across many species and in all geographic zones. Despite evidence of ubiquitous interactions, the magnitude of threat to each individuals and populations is difficult to monitor, and consequences are widely debated. Potential consequences range from sub-lethal toxicological effects (i.e. sub-lethal toxicity, hormone and potential reproductive effects associated with plastic ingestion), to debilitation observed with entanglement, to direct mortality associated with both ingestion and entanglement. Despite the prevalence of interactions (50% of all seabirds known to interact with marine debris, predicted to increase to 99% by 2050), only 18 seabirds have “Garbage and Solid Waste” listed as a threat on the IUCN red list (One Charadriiforme, One Sphenisciforme, three Suliformes and 13 Procellariiformes). There is currently mixed evidence for sub-lethal effects associated with debris ingestion (toxicity etc) and mixed concern regarding the scale of direct mortality associated with each entanglement and ingestion.
This symposium would aim to
1) Establish a criteria for assessing demonstrated threat agreeable to the experts in the field,
2) Apply this criteria across all seabird species where sufficient data is known to assess he avenues of marine debris threat, and
3) Create a list of priority questions to fill critical knowledge gaps.
Ultimately, the aim would be to update the marine debris threat status on the IUCN red list for all seabird species where data is sufficient.

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