The Seabird Ecological Assessment Network (SEANET) is a citizen science program that brings together interdisciplinary researchers and citizen scientists in a long-term collaborative effort to identify and mitigate threats to marine birds.

SEANET volunteers conduct beached bird surveys in order to identify and record information about bird mortality along the east coast of the United States. Data collected by hundreds of SEANET volunteers are used to examine the spatial pattern of bird carcass deposition and how it varies across time.

Bridget Poulin, Seanetter in Maine

These surveys provide baseline information about bird mortality and help to detect mass mortality events such as oil spills, algal toxins, and disease outbreaks. Marine birds can serve as indicators of ecosystem and human health; monitoring the threats they face and their mortality patterns can teach us about the health of the marine environment.


SEANET was initiated by the Tufts Center for Conservation Medicine, in collaboration with the Lloyd Center for Environmental Studies in Massachusetts, during Autumn 2002. Since this time, the project has expanded to beaches throughout New England, New York and New Jersey and more recently, to the southeastern US, with beaches in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.


Dr. Julie Ellis, SEANET Director

Julie Ellis, PhD, is SEANET’s Executive Director. She joined the organization  in 2006. She is a Research Assistant Professor at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

Julie received her BS & MS at University of Kansas, and her PhD at Brown University’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

During her PhD, Julie studied coastal ecology with a focus on seabirds as marine ecosystem engineers
(ie how seabirds affect food webs and other aspects of the environment in rocky intertidal habitats in coastal Maine)

Julie’s current research interests include:

(1) Emerging infectious pathogens and antibiotic resistance in marine animals. There is growing worldwide concern about pathogens originating from pollution of coastal marine habitats by feces from humans and domesticated animals. Marine invertebrates and vertebrates are likely an important reservoir for these terrestrially-derived pathogens.

(2) Population trends, ecology, and behavior of Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls in New England. Populations of these two species have fluctuated dramatically during the past several decades; largely as a result of human activities.  My previous research demonstrates that these birds have significant impacts on marine food webs and island ecosystem dynamics.  I am conducting studies in order to better understand the population dynamics over time, foraging habits, interspecific interactions, nest site fidelity, overwinter dispersal, health, and the potential role of gulls as reservoirs of pathogens.

(3) The influence of marine birds on island ecosystems. Seabird islands (islands with large populations of seabirds) are crucial to the survival of many native animals and plants due to the large subsidies provided by nutrient inputs of marine origin. Introduced mammalian predators (e.g. rats and cats) have devastated seabird populations and drastically altered vegetation processes and ecosystem function all over the world. Currently, Julie is working with an international group of scientists to design cross-ecosystem studies that compare the effects of seabirds on islands at a variety of sites around the world.

Given all this, it’s incomprehensible that Julie maintains time for hobbies, but when she is not engaged in research, she enjoys biking, hiking, gardening, and reading.


Dr. Sarah Courchesne, SEANET's Project Coordinator

Sarah Courchesne, DVM is SEANET’s Project Director.

She received her BA in English from UMass-Amherst, and then abruptly changed course to pursue her interest in avian species.

A veterinarian with a degree from Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Sarah is particularly interested in causes of mortality in seabirds. Her current foci are:

1.)The role of plastics in marine ecosystems, particularly their impact on high trophic level organisms like seabirds. Both the plastics themselves, when ingested, and contaminants absorbed by those plastics can have unpredictable health effects on animals. Sarah would like work on determining what impact these foreign materials have on populations of Atlantic seabirds.

2.) Emerging infectious diseases in seabirds and marine ecosystems generally. With global climate change, shifts in the distribution of diseases can occur, entirely new diseases can appear, and diseases can infect new hosts. The significance of these changes on populations of seabirds is not currently understood and requires systematic surveillance and  diagnosis of native wildlife.

Sarah also revels in avian autopsies, and teaching avian anatomy at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Finally, Sarah here reveals her secret identity as the SEANET blogger.

SEANET also recruits Local Volunteer Coordinators in many states in the network. Because SEANET encompasses such a large geographic area, it is necessary for Tufts staff to collaborate with local agencies and individuals with knowledge of regional conditions and needs and access to the resources to recruit and train new volunteers. These local coordinators are supported by the central SEANET staff located at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in North Grafton, Massachusetts.


SEANET receives no standing financial support from Tufts University, or from any state or federal government. We are funded solely through private and government grants and private donations. To see a listing of our sponsors and partners, or  to contribute to SEANET, please visit our Donate page.

8 responses

19 12 2008
Michael Daniel Ho

Hi, I am an avid birder and bird photographer and active member of the Audubon Society and the RSPB in the UK.
I have visited your site and find it interesting and helpful. I have noticed you have used one of my photos on your web site for illustration purpose. I have many more photos of birds (especially seabirds) on my site. Please feel free to use them (with attribution) for educational purposes and keep up the good work.


18 11 2009
Mike Bjornholm

Please send information for a potential volunteer who lives on Cape Cod

9 02 2010
Ron Poulin

Mike, you can contact Julie Ellis PhD with Tufts seanet@tufts.edu

I’m sure Julie will be very happy to have you onboard! We’re up here in Maine doing our part. Best wishes!

14 03 2010
Kate Wall

I have recently attended a seminar in Falmouth, ME and would like to start volunteering at one of Portland Maine’s local beaches. I have read the protocol. Do I attach a signed contract?


Kate Wall

17 06 2010
Erika Pittman

I’m trying to find a contact for B.L. Sullivan – I see you have a number of his/her photos on your site. We are in the process of seeking protection for Manx Shearwater here in Newfoundland, Canada and are interested in purchasing photos of this nocturnal species. Would you be able to provide contact information or some suggestions as to how to get in touch?
Thank you,

10 11 2010
Virginia McCrae

I read aan article in the Kenebunk Post and would like to become a volunteer for SEANET. I walk almost daily on Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport. Is there an opportunity for this?

31 08 2011
SEANET Volunteers Needed in North Carolina « North Carolina Birding Trail

[…] The Seabird Ecological Assessment Network (SEANET) is starting up in North Carolina, and they are looking for volunteers.  SEANET is a “citizen science program that brings together interdisciplinary researchers and citizen scientists in a long-term collaborative effort to identify and mitigate threats to marine birds”.  Volunteers donate time walking sections of beach to record information on beached birds.  Unfortunately, the first organization meeting has passed, but stay tuned, there will be others.  You can check out the announcement for the first meeting, email John Stanton, or check out the SEANET blog for more information. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. newsletter citizen science, volunteer ← Flock to the Rock – Sept. 24-25 at Chimney Rock State Park […]

20 10 2012
QuestioScientia.com &raquo Non-scientists Collect Key Conservation Information About Seabirds

[…] Canada via the British Columbia Beached Bird Survey to beaches on the east coast of the U.S. via SEANET. (A list of beached bird programs is featured on the COASST Web […]

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