Lydia Kleine's research on plastic ingestion by Northern Fulmars began as a Marine Ecology project in Dr. Joel Elliot's class and continued with Dr. Peter Hodum as advisor. Lydia was a work-study student in the Slater Museum and used beached Northern Fulmars from Wildlife Center of the North Coast to get a sample size sufficient for a co-authored publication with researchers at University of British Columbia.
Stephanie Avery-Gomm, Patrick D. O’Hara, Lydia Kleine, Victoria Bowes, Laurie K. Wilson, Karen L. Barry. Northern fulmars as biological monitors of trends of plastic pollution in the eastern North Pacific. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 2012 (Sep) 64(9):1776-81 (pdf)
Marine plastic debris is a global issue, which highlights the need for internationally standardized methods of monitoring plastic pollution. The stomach contents of beached northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) have proven a cost-effective biomonitor in Europe. However, recent information on northern fulmar plastic ingestion is lacking in the North Pacific. We quantified the stomach contents of 67 fulmars from beaches in the eastern North Pacific in 2009-2010 and found that 92.5% of fulmars had ingested an average of 36.8 pieces, or 0.385 g of plastic. Plastic ingestion in these fulmars is among the highest recorded globally. Compared to earlier studies in the North Pacific, our findings indicate an increase in plastic ingestion over the past 40 years. This study substantiates the use of northern fulmar as biomonitors of plastic pollution in the North Pacific and suggests that the high levels of plastic pollution in this region warrant further monitoring.
NW Nature Notes blog for images and an initial description of Lydia Kleine's findings.