The birds of Cooper Island, with George Divoky

Join us and connect with ornithologist George Divoky in our latest episode of Geography of Hope.

In 1972, George found a colony of Black Guillemots on Cooper Island, a barrier island in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea and began an ongoing long-term study of the colony in 1975. His nearly half-century of summers camping on the island have allowed him to witness major changes to a rapidly disappearing ecosystem. Join us to learn more about this fascinating project and how educators around the world have been inspired to share George’s learnings to encourage action on climate.

George Divoky has studied Alaska seabirds since 1970 when, as a research associate at the Smithsonian Institution, he participated in a three-year census of marine birds and mammals in response to the discovery of oil at Prudhoe Bay. In 1975 he began a study of Mandt’s black guillemots, an ice-obligate seabird, on Cooper Island, 35 km east of Point Barrow, Alaska. The study, now 47 years in duration, is the longest continuous seabird study in the Arctic and its findings on the consequences of decadal-scale reductions in snow and sea ice to seabird demographics and breeding provide some of the best examples of the long-term biological consequences of climate change.

Divoky has worked for federal and state agencies on a range of Alaskan seabird management and conservation issues including the Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act, oil and gas exploration of the outer continental shelf, and oil spill damage assessment and restoration. He is currently the director of Cooper Island Arctic Research, funded by the Seattle-based nonprofit, Friends of Cooper Island.