What follows is a graphic novel about pelican migration in the Gulf of Mexico. Our team worked with a young, aspiring artist, Noah Jodice–to create this graphic novel approach to communicating our science.
The work is titled “Of Migration and Brown Pelicans: A Story in 6 Tweets about Pelican Migration” and originally appeared as a presentation in the 3rd World Seabird Twitter Conference. The data were also published as a paper entitled Influence of density-dependent competition on foraging and migratory behavior of a subtropical colonial seabird in the journal Ecology and Evolution. Basically, we wanted to answer the question, “Why do some pelicans migrate substantial distances, while others remain at or near their breeding colony all year?”
Our methods focused on tracking birds from colonies across the northern Gulf to obtain a representative sample of colonies and individuals.
It was clear from the tracking data that some birds stayed home while other migrated across the Gulf.
Along with colony size, what else may have driven the choice within an individual?
What might the mechanism be that underlies the relationship with colony size?
Our results have important implications for management and conservation. For example, because sexes have different migration strategies, might males be more prone to oil spills in the northern Gulf during the nonbreeding period? Might females experience longer hurricane seasons in the southern Gulf during migration? As is so often the case, research like ours finds additional questions of interest and new opportunities. In fact, we grew our research program in 2017 by adding a new MS student, Rochelle Streker, to the team. Rochelle is examining nest site selection and productivity data of pelicans on Gaillard Island, Alabama, to inform restoration efforts for pelicans. Stay tuned for a graphic novel on her research!