The first wind farm in the U.S. became operational just this past year off the coast of Block Island, Rhode Island. This marks a significant step in recent efforts to develop renewable energy facilities offshore. One of the most important aspects of marine spatial planning is identifying the tradeoffs involved in deciding where to site offshore wind facilities. Our objective was to estimate the exposure of marine birds to offshore development, to determine where and when they are most likely to encounter wind energy footprints. We tagged and tracked two species of seabird, the Common (Sterna hirundo) and Roseate Tern (S. dougallii), both of which are protected in Massachusetts and the latter of which is federally listed as Endangered. We examined the effect of demographic, atmospheric, and temporal variability on their exposure to wind energy areas. Our findings suggest a high likelihood of exposure during the transition period from breeding to postbreeding, when terns travel to staging grounds in Cape Cod, MA. This study highlights the need for marine spatiotemporal planning to account for changes in the distribution of biological hotspots over time, particularly given the permanency of wind facilities constructed in a highly dynamic marine environment.
Dr. Holly Goyert specializes in estimating the at-sea distribution and abundance of marine birds, with respect to its applications in marine spatial planning. She has developed an interdisciplinary research program examining pelagic interactions among protected marine birds, fishes and mammals. For her dissertation, she spent years aboard offshore research vessels as a marine bird and mammal observer on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf. Following her PhD, she conducted postdoctoral research at North Carolina State University, in collaboration with the Biodiversity Research Institute. She helped develop hierarchical models to predict the exposure of marine bird and mammal communities to the wind energy facilities proposed off the coasts of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. At the Idaho Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Unit (USGS), Dr. Goyert worked in collaboration with the USFWS, Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. She conducted population viability analyses on the status of seabirds throughout the state of Alaska. She is currently based out of the Massachusetts Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Unit, tracking Endangered seabirds through a USFWS project funded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Quantifying their movements will help to estimate their exposure to wind energy development off the coast of New England and elsewhere along the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf.