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Lowering Fallout

NREM grad traces the vulnerability of seabird fledglings to light pollution

  • 13 September 2021
  • Author: Mark Berthold
  • Number of views: 985
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Lowering Fallout

Early November to late December is an exciting yet dangerous time for seabird fledglings. It’s during this period when young birds leave the nest to take flight for the first time. Yet, these inevitably lead to cases of “fallout,” in which the fledglings fall to the ground, becoming easy prey for animals or getting crushed by cars.

From her research on the effects of light pollution on seabirds, specifically the Wedge-Tailed Shearwater, Brooke Friswold, a graduate of the Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, found specific hotspots on Oʻahu where the young seabirds become disoriented by artificial light, making them more susceptible to fallout and found that areas near seabird colonies were the most important for light mitigation. She also began a seabird banding program at seven colonies to further understand the spread of fallout throughout the Islands.

Brooke has also been working with local beach parks and local conservation organizations in hopes that lighting can be altered, or even extinguished – especially in areas surrounding the nesting areas during fledging season– to reduce mortality during this critical period for the fledglings.

“As a wildlife biologist, I want to bring attention to critical conservation issues in the Hawaiian Islands that also have global application, highlighting that some conservation issues have practical and tangible solutions and that all people in Hawaii can play a part in protecting seabirds and sea turtles, and bring attention to the detrimental effects of light pollution on humans and wildlife, especially in the Hawaiian Islands” she says.

She adds, “Artificial light pollution is a fairly straight-forward problem to solve. Altering or extinguishing artificial light in key areas could save hundreds to thousands of seabirds – and potentially sea turtles as they are also affected by light pollution.”

Read more on her work in Hawaiʻi Business magazine and BBC Earth Facebook.

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