Foraging behavior of herring gulls along an urban gradient:
Effects on microbiome diversity and immunity
This work integrates analyses of the microbial community in herring gulls (Larus argentatus) with movement studies to assess how foraging behavior shapes the immunity and microbiome of individual gulls. We are examining foraging behavior and feeding habits of gulls using small, lightweight GPS tags at three study sites at differing distances from a major urban centre: Jamaica Bay in New York City (our most urban site), Stony Brook Harbor on Long Island, New York (our intermediate site), and Tuckernuck Island off of Nantucket, Massachusetts (our least urban site). Collecting blood samples and microbial swabs from tracked gulls allows us to use next generation sequencing techniques (in collaboration with infectious disease and genomics experts at SBU) to investigate how immunity and the microbiome differs between gulls from the different study sites and between gulls using different foraging locations and food sources.