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Black Guillemot Cooper Isle

64. Saving Pack-ice Dependent Seabirds North of Alaska

George Divoky, founder of Friends of Cooper Island, talks with Rob about his work studying the Black Guillemot seabird in Arctic Alaska. Lori Wark, web producer for Friends of Cooper Island and a writer for the blog, Adventures in Climate Change, joined the conversation to explain how to get involved in this research.

Since 1975 George has spent his summers on remote Cooper Island. What began as an ornithologist’s quest to understand the behaviors of a rare seabird, however, has turned into the story of a changing Arctic. Due to the recent melting of Arctic sea ice in summer, polar bears have begun visiting the island in search of food, reducing breeding success to near zero by 2009.

After that devastating year, George came up with a solution to protect breeding birds and their chicks. By modifying hard plastic cases, George created “bear-proof” nest sites. The Black Guillemots began moving into their new homes in 2010 with great success. Tune in to find out how you can sponsor a nest site and help to keep the research going.


Sponsor a Guillemot nest box for one year and assist George Divoky with his continuing research of the Black Guillemot colony during a period of unprecedented environmental change and development in the Alaskan Arctic.

Sponsorship of a nest case provides you with a real connection to an area of the world undergoing rapid change and a study that is monitoring the consequences of that change.

Benefits of Sponsorship

Adoption of a specific nest site

Periodic emails informing you of the of the background of the banded pair breeding in the nest site and the status of their eggs and nestlings

Pictures of your nest site and its parents and nestlings

Shout-outs on the Friends of Cooper Island and Adventures in Climate Change websites and our Facebook pages

An excellent teaching aid for an school class or individual child

The positive feeling that comes from knowing you are helping a long-term study continue.

Studying the Black Guillemots of Cooper Island has largely been a solitary venture for George Divoky. While the discovery and initial years of the study were part of governmental research related to oil development in northern Alaska, for the past four decades the work has been conducted with occasional grants and much personal dedication. It is precisely this type of extended data set that is needed to monitor the long-term cycles and trends related to climate change and other atmospheric variation.

George Divoky is the founder of Friends of Cooper Island and serves as its director in collaboration with a governing board. George has been studying seabirds in arctic Alaska since 1970 and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Research priorities and directions are set with the advice of a Scientific Advisory Board composed of prominent arctic researchers from a number of disciplines.

Lori Wark has been in the Web business almost since Al Gore invented the Internet. A short career in radio production and a quick stint in TV, morphed into all things Web at Discovery Channel where she produced history games and the occasional uplifting story (The Black Death, The Dustbowl and the Flu Pandemic of 1918). Somehow writing about death and destruction led to environmental reporting. After leaving the security of the corporate world, she is on her own and hoping to make a footprint (not of the carbon kind) in the world of climate change understanding.