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Año Nuevo Island

Seabird Conservation, Habitat Restoration, and Ocean Indicators


Oikonos is working with a team of ecologists, habitat restoration experts, artists, designers and land managers to restore degraded habitat for nesting seabirds on Año Nuevo Island, California. In addition, 2016 sees Oikonos and partners leading the 24th consecutive year of seabird studies at Año Nuevo State Park (initiated by the Park and PRBO Conservation Science in 1993).

Results from 2015:

  • 330 breeding Rhinoceros Auklets found, the highest number ever recorded on the island
  • Clay modules provided nesting habitat for 70 individuals from 3 different burrowing species
  • Habitat restoration efforts continued to reduce damage to burrows from erosion while increasing native plant cover
  • Breeding populations of Rhinoceros and Cassin’s Auklets continued to grow since initial restoration efforts
Cassin’s Auklet newly hatched chick from a clay module

Cassin’s Auklet chick newly hatched from a clay module


Protection: To protect the seabird nesting area from destructive trampling by California sea lions, we designed an innovative Habitat Ridge.

Nest Modules: To provide low-maintenance nesting sites for burrowing seabirds that are safe from erosion and trampling, we designed and produced 90 clay nest modules. Since 2010, clay modules have been used by hundreds of pairs Rhinoceros Auklet, Cassin’s Auklet, and Pigeon Guillemots to raise their young. More info.

Restoration: To stabilize the burrowing habitat for Rhinoceros and Cassin’s Auklets and improve nesting success, we installed over 15,000 native coastal grasses and shrubs. Since then, increased native plant cover (12-79% cover in restoration plots) has resulted in a reduction in burrow collapse from erosion (6% damaged in 2012, compared to an average of 25% annually before restoration).

Seabird Population and Reproduction Studies:  We annually document the breeding population size and reproductive success of 8 breeding seabird species.  Rhinoceros Auklet population has increased by 26% and Cassin’s Auklet population has tripled in the 5 years since habitat restoration.

beck et al ANI Report diet graph 2015Indicators of Ocean Conditions: Seabird diet studies are widely used to assess and predict ocean health. We annually collect diet samples from three breeding seabird species: Rhinoceros Auklets (1993-2015), and Brandt’s and Pelagic Cormorants (2000-2015).

Publications & Papers

Peer-reviewed publications:

Temporal and Sex-Specific Variability in Rhinoceros Auklet Diet in the Central California Current System

Carle R., Beck J., Calleri D., and Hester M. 2015. Journal of Marine Systems 146:99-108.

Selected Reports – Long-term Study Results:

Año Nuevo State Park Seabird Conservation and Habitat Restoration Report

Beck, J. Carle, R.,  Calleri, D., Hester, M. 2015. Unpublished report to CA Dept. of Parks and Recreation, Año Nuevo Island. Oikonos – Ecosystem Knowledge.

 Media coverage:

Extremely Wild and Very Smelly, Año Nuevo Island Restoration

Santa Cruz Sentinel, July 2013

Año Nuevo Island: Where the Wild Things Are

San Francisco Chronicle, 17 July, 2009.

Contact Project Leaders

Jessie Beck, Ryan Carle, Michelle Hester

Partners & Supporters

Thank you to the over 160 volunteers who have given their expertise and muscles to these efforts.

Key partners Go Native, California College of the Arts Ceramics, MoreLab, Año Nuevo State Park.

Direct funding provided by USCG National Pollution Fund Center, managed by the Luckenbach and Command Oil Spill Trustee Councils; Creative Work Fund, a program of the Walter and Elise Haas Fund, supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and The James Irvine Foundation; Patagonia Santa Cruz; Peninsula Open Space Trust; Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation; Michael Lee Environmental Foundation; Bently Foundation; USGS – Western Ecological Research Center; Coastal Conservancy.