Biography of Bill Fraser

PI Bill Fraser checks Giant Petrel nest.

Ornithologist, and expert on skuas, gulls and penguins, and slated as a live guest in program 1: LFA 2 also thanks Dr. Fraser for his input to Activity 3.3, "From data to Death"

Two questions that I am often asked are, when did my interest in science start and what brought me to Antarctica to do research?

The answer to the first question really has no time period attached to it, as I cannot recall a time when I did not have an interest in science, which in my case involves the field of ecology. I spent the first 12 years of my life in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, Argentina but, either through family or friends, was fortunate in having access to some of the great "estancias" or ranches for which that country is known. It was on those ranches that I developed a keen interest in the out-of-doors and hunting and fishing in particular. I quickly realized that the key to becoming better at those activities was simply to know more about the species I pursued. Thus, whatever free time I had in those early years was spent either reading about the natural world or pursuing fish and game. Although I did not recognize it as such, I had, in effect, turned to ecology to understand the animals in which I was interested.

My formal education in ecology began in 1974, which also coincided with my first trip to Antarctica. By that time, my family had moved to the United States and I had finished high school and four years of college, graduating from Utah State University with a degree in Wildlife Biology. In Utah I also became more interested in research, and it was because of this interest that I applied to do graduate work at the University of Minnesota. The person that took me on as a graduate student was Dr. David Parmelee, a world-class ornithologist who had specialized in Arctic research but was then turning his interests to the Antarctic. I joined David Parmelee's team in 1974 and one of the conditions I accepted as part of the arrangement was that I was to spend at least two seasons in Antarctica. Those two seasons eventually encompassed 17 months of field research at Palmer Station, a U.S. base on the Antarctic Peninsula.

David Parmelee gave his students a free hand in designing and developing their own research programs, and I elected to study the foraging ecology of Kelp Gulls, eventually receiving a PhD in Wildlife Ecology for that effort. What brought me to Antarctica, therefore, was a bit of luck, combined with a keen, long-term interest in wildlife and the environment.

The 1996-1997 season represents my 22nd year in pursuit of these interests and seabird ecology as the focus of my research, which now involves trying to understand how variability in the marine (the feeding habitat) and terrestrial (the breeding habitat) environments affect seabird populations at various space and time scales. In effect, seabirds provide the clues that allow me to understand ecosystem dynamics, their ecology serving as a sort of "window" by which to view interactions between the physical and biological components of the system.

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