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Researchers’ radar truck on the road

WAINIHA — Endangered-seabird researchers are parked along Kaua‘i roads now through mid-July as they continue a decades-old data-collection project using radar.

The Kaua‘i Endangered Seabird Recovery Project’s mobile radar lab is tasked with surveying two of Kaua‘i’s most endangered avian species: the ‘a‘o (Newell’s shearwater, Puffinus newelli) and ua‘u (Hawaiian petrel, Pterodroma sandwichensis).

“Radar is utilized worldwide to study birds, and is a key tool to monitor the island’s seabirds as they fly overhead in darkness to and from their breeding colonies and the sea,” according to a state Department of Land and Natural Resources press release.

“The radar allows observers to ‘see’ the birds flying overhead in the darkness as a series of dots passing the radar screen.”

KESRP observers assess the speed of movement, direction of travel and time of the event to identify species.

The monitoring project began in 1993. KESRP took over operations in 2006 from project originators Robert Day and Brian Cooper of ABR Inc.

The long-term data has shown a massive decline in ‘a‘o and ua‘o populations.

Radar data collected between 1993 and 2020 indicated a 72.8% decline for ua‘u, at an average rate of 4.7% a year.

Ten out of 13 monitoring locations featured drastically reduced numbers of radar targets, with an average change of -53.6%, per the DLNR.

“Given that Kaua‘i holds 90% of the world’s population of ‘a‘o and a significant proportion of the world’s portion of ua‘u, it is vital that we protect these birds,” DLNR’s press release continued.

“Conservation actions to reverse these declines have been inplemented in some of the colonies of these species. However, populations of both species should be monitored constantly to better understand the impact of these actions.”

DLNR reports the KESRP mobile radar lab will conduct surveys throughout Kaua‘i at night.

The lab typically operates on the North Shore, in the Wainiha area.

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Scott Yunker, reporter, can be reached at 245-0437 or syunker@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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