Abby And a Grey-Faced Petrel chick on the Mokohinau Islands, New Zealand (Photo by Edin Whitehead)

Abby And a Grey-Faced Petrel chick on the Mokohinau Islands, New Zealand (Photo by Edin Whitehead)

I'm a sketch biologist and Fulbright-Nat Geo Fellow currently in New Zealand, where I'm writing and illustrating National Geographic stories about penguins, prions, shearwaters, shags, gulls, gannets, albatrosses, and all sorts of other birds that spend their lives on the ocean.

Seabirds are declining like crazy worldwide, and that's an even bigger problem than you might think. Among other things, these birds connect marine and terrestrial ecosystems and act as canaries-in-a-coal-mine to warn us about things that are out of whack in the environment.

The Long-Lost New ZeAland Storm- Petrel (Click to enlarge)

New Zealand is home to the most diverse and most endangered seabirds in the world. It also happens to be a global leader in solving the plethora of problems afflicting seabirds, caused by human activity past and present.

(Take the tiny New Zealand Storm-Petrel, one victim of the invasive rats that followed human colonists to the New Zealand archipelago. So scarce it was thought to be extinct for the entire 20th century, this little seabird recently showed up nesting on an island 50 miles from Auckland. It owes its second chance to New Zealanders who have been working hard to control predators throughout the country.)

My aim is to capture a sense of this seabird-saving grit and gumption and help pass that on to the rest of the planet. So I'm roaming the New Zealand coastline for nine months, with my tent and kayak in tow. I'll be sketching seabirds, talking to seabirders, taking part in seabird research and conservation, and telling stories about it all.

I'll be collecting most of those stories right here on my blog. To really stay in the loop, you can
check out my column on National Geographic Voices, sign up for email updates, and
follow @sketchbiologist on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook 

Please support seabird conservation!