We hope to answer several questions about albatrosses during this study. The main question is simply: where do these birds go when they leave their nesting island? All that we know about this is that they fly out of sight, over the horizon and away to sea, and that when they come back they have a full load of food. If you looked at Albatrosses at Work, you know that food-finding trips can last for days or even weeks. Following the birds in boats is not an option; the birds fly much too rapidly. Following them in planes doesn't work well, because the albatrosses fly a lot more slowly than most planes can and at any rate, the birds can be gone at sea for weeks. Planes have to return to land to refuel and lose track of the target bird in the meantime. Biologists on boats have turned in many reports of where albatrosses are seen at sea, and this information has been used to make distribution maps of where birds are found and where they are not. This information is only partly useful to answer our question, because birds seen at sea could be.
Since our interest is in birds that are breeding at Tern Island, Hawaii and where they go on feeding trips, we need a study method that will allow us to follow the movements of particular birds that are Tern Island birds and that are nesting. That is why satellite tracking is a great research tool for us.
We can state two general Hypotheses regarding the question of where these nesting birds go. One is that their feeding destination is so far from their nest on Tern Island that travelling takes several days. The other hypothesis is that the feeding spot is not so distant, but the birds spend a lot of time at that spot gathering food. When you have the movement data from the satellites, you can say which of these two hypotheses is correct.
We want to answer some other questions about albatross movements, likes, and dislikes. For example, we will be able to form new hypotheses about movements and weather patterns, ocean surface conditions, and the abundance of food in different parts of the ocean. In "Kids Using Satellites" and "The Hawaii Study," we'll show you how to get at that information. It is your job to think up hypotheses of this type. Since you came up with the hypothesis, it will be tested
for the first time
with brand-new satellite data that YOU collect.
This page last updated on June 22, 1998 02:32 PM