Since I last wrote, the pelicans and I have been on the move. In February I traveled to Juneau, AK to present some of my early results at the annual meeting of the Pacific Seabird Group. PSG is a great place to meet passionate, pioneering seabird scientists, and I came away with lots of feedback and ideas.
At the beginning of this month, I visited Dr. Katie O'Reilly's lab at the University of Portland in Portland, OR. The purpose of the trip was to assess levels of the stress hormone corticosterone (cort) in the pelican chick feathers we sampled last summer. Most of the visit was spent preparing samples (weighing, measuring, and clipping feathers-- don't breathe too hard!) and testing extraction techniques, and I learned a lot about the radioimmunoassay process and all the tiny decisions that go into preparing and analyzing samples. I'm hoping that the stress hormones deposited in feathers will show colony-to-colony differences that I can then relate back to differences in human disturbance, development, or environmental conditions.
In the meantime, warden Tim Wilkinson has seen the first pelican eggs on Chester Island, TX, and our pelicans seem to be on their way home. Although two are still in Cuba and two in the Yucatan, two others have begun the trips back to their breeding areas. CH24 has crossed back to the Atlantic side of Mexico and is now heading up the coast. His spring migration route was longer and passed further east than his fall route, possibly to take advantage of a chain of lakes and rivers that runs through that section of the isthmus.
CH23 started making her way across the Gulf only to switch directions and end up in Tampa Bay, Florida. Her route follows a shipping lane, so we suspect that she may have hitched a ride or followed behind a boat. She could decide to make the trip to Texas or stay in Florida to breed-- we'll have to wait and see!
Juliet Lamb is the post-doc in charge of the project. You can check her website at julietlamb.weebly.com