Josh Adams

Josh Adams

Seabird Ecologist, US Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center; MLML Research Affiliate, Vertebrate Ecology Lab


Office Phone: 831-771-4138


B.A. Biology, University of California Santa Cruz (1994)
M.Sc. Marine Science, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (2004)

Research Interests:

I am a seabird ecologist with the US Geological Survey’s Western Ecological Research Center. I am interested in many aspects of seabird ecology and my current projects are focused on species that inhabit the California Current System (Sooty Shearwater, Cassin’s Auklet, Ashy Storm-petrel, and Black-footed Albatross), Hawaii (Hawaiian Petrel and Black-footed Albatross), and New Zealand (Grey-faced Petrel and Sooty Shearwater). I am motivated to understand how patterns in the ocean environment influence aspects of seabird ecology including distribution and abundance seabirds at sea, movements and foraging behaviors of adults during the breeding season, and the interaction of key seabird prey (krill, larval fishes, sardines) with oceanographic features (eddies, upwelling fronts). My work uses satellite remote sensing of the ocean surface coupled with wildlife telemetry to help describe important seabird habitats off southern California, and throughout the Pacific. I have conducted work with seabirds and marine mammals in many different environments including California, Hawaii, Alaska, and Antarctica.

Collaborative Projects
Restoration of Scorpion Rock flora to benefit burrowing seabirds in the Channel Islands National Park

Island habitat off California is ecologically important and extremely vulnerable to disturbance. We are working to re-establish a diverse, native floral community on Scorpion Rock, a small Islet off Santa Cruz Island in the California Channel Islands National Park. Invasive plants (primarily crystalline iceplant (Mesembryanthemum crystallinum) now have the upper hand on Scorpion. Working with Growing Solutions, we are conducting an experiment to quantify two methods of non-native, invasive plant removal coupled with native out-planting. The ultimate goal is to return the island to a native-dominated flora, improve soil quality, and thereby ultimately benefit burrowing seabirds such as Cassin’s Auklet.

Tracking the movements and trans-Pacific migration of Sooty Shearwater (Puffinus griseus)

During the boreal summer, Sooty Shearwaters are the most abundant seabird in the California Current System (and the North Pacific). Each spring millions of individuals arrive from southern hemisphere colonies in New Zealand and Chile. Off California, annual consumption of certain prey fishes such as anchovy, sardine, and juvenile rockfishes is approximately equivalent to the total amount of fish landed by commercial fishers. We have used satellite tracking techniques to quantify shearwater habitat use off the west coast of North America since 2004. During 2008-10, we will be integrating tracking data with new oceanographic measures to better understand how this dominant marine predator of key forage fishes interacts with the dynamic California Current System.

The Albatross Collaborative: exploring albatross movements

Black-footed Albatross (Phoebastria nigripes) is one of three albatrosses endemic to the north Pacific Ocean. The vast majority of Black-footeds nest in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (now included within the Papahanaumokukea Marine National Monument). During the non-breeding season (June through November), birds range throughout the north Pacific from California to Japan. As part of a collective effort to better understand important ‘over-wintering’ areas at sea and to better assess threats to albatrosses imposed by industrialized fishing and plastic pollution, we are combining satellite tracking, geographic information system (GIS) analyses, and satellite oceanography. Photo Jeff Poklen.

Wings under waves: the diving behavior of Cassin’s Auklet

Cassin’s Auklet is an opportunistic zooplanktivorous (they eat krill) member of the Alcidae Family of seabirds (murres, guillemots, puffins, and auklets). Cassin’s nest on islands—mostly within earthen burrows—from the Aleutian Islands, AK through northern Baja California, Mexico. Breeding biology is closely-linked to environmental variability in local ocean oceanographic conditions (Pacific Decadal Oscillation, ENSO events, upwelling events). As part of continued research involving the ecology of Cassin’s Auklet off southern California, we are examining the diving behavior of chick-provisioning adults in order to gain a better understanding of the species’ foraging habitat and potential impacts to prey availability that are mediated by oceanographic climate variability. Photo Josh Adams

Grey-faced Petrel Ecology

Known to the Hauraki and Ng?ti Awa Iwi (local communities) as Oi—after its pure-toned flight call, Grey-faced Petrel (Pterodroma macroptera gouldi) is revered as taonga (treasured). This gadfly petrel is abundant among the Ruam?hua (Aldermen) Islands located off northeastern New Zealand where it is considered a keystone species on its nesting islands. I am assisting Landcare Research, New Zealand with satellite telemetry, data processing, and interpretation. Photo Landcare Research NZ.

Hawaiian Petrel Ecology

Predation and habitat degradation by non-native species are principal terrestrial threats to endangered Hawaiian Petrel (´Ua´u, Pterodroma sandwichensis). High priority recovery actions include predator control, habitat restoration, and population monitoring. On the other hand, little is known about this species’ overall at-sea distribution, foraging range, and high-use areas, and thus we have scant knowledge of the threats these birds may face in the pelagic environment. Required prerequisites for conservation actions include (1) obtaining precise locations of remote, montane nesting areas, (2) refining techniques for population assessment, and (3) identifying at-sea habitat using satellite telemetry to track the movements of medium-sized (~400-g) ´Ua´u. Photo Hadoram Shirihai.