Monitoring Project Highlight: Spatial Ecology and Demographics of Brown Pelicans in the Gulf of Mexico
by Patrick Jodice
In 2013, the South Carolina Cooperative Research Unit (SC CRU) initiated field research on Brown Pelicans in the Gulf of Mexico (visit the project’s website here), funded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the U.S. Geological Survey. The original study profile was developed by Dr. Jeff Gleason while working for BOEM. BOEM, like many other agencies, needed data on movements, habitat use, foraging ecology, and reproductive ecology of pelicans to support regulatory and management decisions. Working with Gleason, the SC CRU expanded the original study profile to develop a detailed examination of pelican ecology. Juliet Lamb joined our team as the lead PhD student and Yvan Satgé as our Research Associate. Two overarching disciplines were selected for study— spatial ecology and physiological ecology. Together these two research avenues would provide a comprehensive assessment of how pelicans use the northern Gulf.
From 2013-2015, our team collected data from pelican colonies on the Florida Panhandle to those near Corpus Christi, Texas. Data streams included diet, productivity, health and contaminant loads in adults and chicks, and various aspects of movement patterns and habitat use. Results from these efforts are now being published in peer-reviewed journals and are being used to inform development of monitoring plans and to support decision making needs by federal and state agencies. The breadth and depth of data collected were extensive; therefore, for this newsletter, we decided to focus on one set of results using a unique storytelling format. Follow the link for a graphic novel about pelican migration in the Gulf of Mexico. Our team worked with a young, aspiring artist—my son, Noah Jodice—to create this graphic novel approach to communicating our science.
View the graphic novel here.