Clemson professor receives $1 million grant to study pelicans

Clemson University professor Patrick Jodice has won a $1 million grant to study the movement and habitat usage area of brown pelicans.

Brown pelicans can be good indicators of the health of coastal, estuarine and marine systems in this area.   File photo

Clemson University professor Patrick Jodice has won a $1 million grant to study the movement and habitat usage area of brown pelicans.

The study will take place in coastal areas of South Carolina, Georgia and northern Florida. The data Jodice culls from the study will help researchers better understand potential risks to coastal birds in general.

The study, funded by the U.S. Geological Survey, will be led by Jodice, an associate professor, and Brian Leo, a doctoral student. The study will use the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) South Atlantic Planning Area (SAPA). The SAPA covers coastal areas of the aforementioned three states. No gas or oil developments are underway in the area, although leases were proposed offshore last year. The leases have not been finalized.

“Brown pelicans can be good indicators of the health of coastal, estuarine and marine systems in this area,” Jodice said. “This study will assess at-sea habitat use and migration paths of adult brown pelicans that breed in the SAPA and, should energy development occur there in the future, be used to map potential risk areas.”

The region supports 5,500 pairs of pelicans. During the study, 100 birds will be tagged with satellite transmitters. Data from the transmitters will offer information about the range of travel birds use to eat and live during breeding and non-breeding seasons. The study will also collect data on diet, chick health and colony size.

The study beings next spring and runs through September 2019. Data will be used by agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Environmental Protection Agency and Audubon Society, as well as other state agencies in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

Updates will be posted for all to see at http://www.atlanticseabirds.org/.

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