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SBU professor gets funding to study Antarctic seabirds

Stony Brook University Assistant Professor Heather Lynch is pictured with an Adelie penguin in Antarctica. Photo from SBU
May 03, 2013 | 02:54 PM
Heather Lynch, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology & Evolution at Stony Brook University, was selected to receive the National Science Foundation's prestigious Faculty Early Career Development program award for her work entitled, "The Use of Quantitative Geography to Predict Population Tipping Points for Colonial Seabirds."

Lynch, a Port Jefferson resident, is the fifth Stony Brook University professor to be awarded an NSF award in 2013. The project, with a five-year $782,839 award, focuses on quantitative population ecology, with a particular focus on using mathematical and statistical models to understand the space and time dynamics of Antarctic penguin populations.

She is involved in a long-term biological monitoring program, called the Antarctic Site Inventory, a project she runs with Oceanites, a Washington, D.C.-based non-governmental organization. Most recently, Lynch has been at the forefront of using high-resolution commercial satellite imagery to map the presence and abundance of Antarctic seabirds, an area of interest that has exploded in recent years.

"I'm fascinated by the idea that colonial seabirds may struggle to shift their breeding range in response to climate change because of the population dynamics associated with having to breed colonially," Lynch said. "My work has always been driven by an interest in the spatiotemporal dynamics of populations, and in that sense it spans mathematics, ecology and geography. This project brings together all of those disciplines to answer some really fundamental questions about how colonial seabirds will adapt to climate change."

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