* Free in the Garden
One hundred miles east of New York City lies a tiny speck of land called Great Gull Island. Formerly an U.S. Army fort, it is now a research station of the American Museum of Natural History. It is also the summer home of over 20,000 common and roseate terns. These small, fish-eating seabirds fly to New York from South America each year to lay eggs and raise their chicks. This effort requires them to catch a lot of small fish--up to half a million per day for the whole colony. During his PhD at Stony Brook University, Sam Urmy (currently a postoctoral fellow at MBARI) spent two summers on Great Gull Island trying to figure out how the terns find all those fishes. Using a modified boat radar, he was able to track hundreds of birds at once as they flew around the colony. In this talk, he will present some highlights of this research--including the fascinating ecology of seabird foraging, the risks of buying scientific instruments on eBay, and what, exactly, it is like to share a small island with 20,000 angry birds.