Oil Spill Vulnerability Models

Modeling the Vulnerability of Seabirds to Oil Spills

Researchers take a closer look at how oil spills affect different species of Pacific Northwest seabirds.

Principal Investigator

Julia Parrish, University of Washington, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences

Co-Principal Investigator

Timothy Jones, University of Washington

Project

When oil coats a seabird’s feathers, it causes them to mat and lose their waterproofing. Because of this and other factors, seabirds are among the most vulnerable animals to oil spills. This project takes a closer look at how oil spills affect different species of Pacific Northwest seabirds. The project employs two independent methods, one using historical data to assess the relative abundance of taxon groups in oil spill samples relative to a beached bird baseline data (a method called hindcasting). The second method models the likelihood of particular groups of birds washing up on the shore by using cumulative spatiotemporal data on at-sea distribution, fine-scale ocean circulation modeling, and the extent of how far and when a given spill spread. The project’s long-term goal is to create a set of tools to simulate past spills and model the vulnerability of various groups of Pacific Northwest seabirds to future oiling.