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Seabird Nest Program

Sustainable Clay Modules for Seabird Restoration

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The main goal of the collaborative Seabird Nest Program is to provide safe and sustainable nesting habitat for threatened seabirds, so they can breed successfully and we can learn about their behavior and ecology with less disturbance. To this end, our team of artists, designers and scientists creates and deploys customized “Nest Modules” for seabirds that breed underground in soil burrows, rock crevices, and caves.

As a conservation tool, artificial nests provide stability and safety in breeding colonies plagued by habitat degradation and loss. In particular, the nests are designed to mitigate the impacts of burrow collapse due to erosion and mortality from nest predators.

Justification: Many marine bird species are in critical need of protection and mitigation to recover their populations


789191047Nest Module Innovations

  • Built entirely of clay: a durable and responsible material
  • Transportable by small boat and carried by hand
  • Un-crushable by seal or human trampling
  • Inaccessible by ravens due to weight and interior walls
  • Mimics natural burrow qualities
  • Long-lived: life span 25+ years
  • To date have provided safe nesting habitat for four species of seabirds on two California islands

New Challenges:

  • Keep cool in tropical climate
  • Exclude cats

Videos of the Program’s accomplishments on Año Nuevo Island:


Project Leaders: Michelle Hester, Jessie Beck, Ryan Carle, Dave Calleri


A core element of Oikonos’ mission is to form partnerships with experts from diverse disciplines to create conservation solutions. For this reason, Oikonos is excited to continue its 5 year partnership with master ceramicist Nathan Lynch, designers from MoreLab, and students from California College of the Arts ENGAGE.

Designers & Artists:

Nathan Lynch is a master ceramicist and Chair of the Ceramics Program at California College of the Arts in  Oakland. As a sculptor and performance artist, Lynch has made collaboration and experimentation major components of his practice.

Matthew Passmore, the lead of MoreLab, creates innovative artworks, installations and experiences that examine our understanding of the social, political and ecological dynamics of public space.

Student Designers:

Two classes have been conducted at California College of the Arts to engage students in real world applications.

Island Partners:

Año Nuevo Island, California Department of Parks and Recreation, Año Nuevo State Reserve

Orizaba Rock and Bat Caves, Channel Islands National Park

Funded & Supported by

  • Luckenbach and Command Oil Spill Trustee Councils, NOAA Restoration Center
  • The 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
  • Bently Foundation
  • Go Native
  • Rebar Group



Cassin’s Auklet newly hatched chick.