Avian Influenza in Gulls

PROJECT

AVIAN INFLUENZA IN GULLS

Background

Biologists from the Prince William Sound Science Center and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are working to better understand how the distribution of glaucous-winged gulls changes in response to salmon processing activities in Cordova during the fishing season. Gulls are captured near the city dock using a net launcher and marked with colorful leg bands to evaluate connectivity with a breeding colony located at a nearby barrier island and larger-scale migration patterns. Swabs and blood samples are collected and tested for avian influenza (aka "bird flu") which can spike in the population as gulls congregate in large numbers at the city docks after fledging from the colony. This study provides a unique opportunity to understand how human activities may alter the behavior of animal hosts, determine which factors are important in the evolution of new viral strains, and potentially enable us to predict when and how outbreaks of zoonotic pathogens will occur.

 If you spot a banded gull, please send your report to Nichola Hill (nhill@mit.edu) or Mary Anne Bishop (mbishop@pwssc.org). For more information and for project updates, visit http://gullwatch.mit.edu/.