Date of Graduation

Spring 5-18-2024

Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Management (MSEM)


College of Arts and Sciences


Environmental Management

First Advisor

Aviva Rossi, PhD


Marbled Murrelets (Brachyramphus marmoratus) are a federally and state protected seabird in California, Oregon, and Washington. Marbled Murrelet populations have been unstable over the past few decades, primarily due to habitat loss. Logging, wildfires, and windthrow have either destroyed or fragmented coastal old-growth forests, which provide high- quality nesting habitat for Marbled Murrelets. Despite the various management strategies and protections for the species across its range, population trends indicate that Marbled Murrelet populations are declining in Washington, despite positive trends in California and Oregon. The goal of this research was to identify gaps in current conservation strategies through a better understanding of the factors causing the decline of Marbled Murrelets in Washington. Through this research, management strategies were recommended based on two comprehensive literature syntheses and a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats analysis. A synthesis of existing literature revealed that habitat loss was the most significantly addressed threat in management and recovery plans and conservation efforts could be strengthened with a greater focus on food availability and predation. Management recommendations for food availability and predation are often addressed in a less meaningful way, primarily due to lack of research. This paper suggests that enhanced food management practices and educational campaigns in Washington campgrounds are likely to have the most success in reducing predation threats to Marbled Murrelets. Conditioned taste aversion also appears to be a potentially effective strategy to minimizing predation risks, as demonstrated by research in Northern California. However, it is recommended that further research be conducted to determine the applicability of this method in Washington. Food availability and climate change are closely associated, and future climate change scenarios suggest that availability of forage fish could be altered with increasing temperatures. Only a limited number of forage fish have been adequately studied off the coast of Washington, and until further research is conducted on forage fish populations, management recommendations are unlikely to be effective enough to reduce the threat to Marbled Murrelets. Lastly, it is recommended that regulatory agencies and technical committees focus on climate change and discuss the potential implications of rising temperatures, such as new or exacerbated threats to Marbled Murrelets, and create the best path forward to mitigate potential impacts and give the species the best chance at recovery.