Project Staff & Cooperators


Helen hays - Director

Helen Hays  has directed the project since its beginning and participates in  the fieldwork on the island as well as in South America.

joe dicostanzo

Joe has worked on Great Gull Island since 1975. He  oversees trapping on the island and is responsible for computerizing the data.

Congratulations to Gabriella Rosen, our office manager, who moved upstairs to become Administrative Assistant in the Department of Ornithology in March of 2013. Currently we are lucky to have a strong group of volunteers, many of them trained by Gabriella, working in the office.  They include: Lee Allen, Thomas Endrey, Teresa Grimm, Jim Hyland, Nancy Perkins, Lottie Prushinski, Ceceilia Rothschild, Barbara Saunders, Lydia Thomas, who work on different aspects of the Great Gull Island data.

We will miss Jorge Saliva who worked with us in Puerto Rico.  It will be hard to find someone to replace him. Lots of luck to  Judy Pierce, who worked in the Virgin Islands and has retired.  However, she is continuing to work with seabirds.

Grace leads the Roseate check and has worked on Roseates since the project began. Between 1975 and 1987 she took time out to raise a family and returned to the island with her two sons to do the Roseate check in 1988. She continues through the present, working with different field assistants.


Matthew first came to Great Gull Island in 1978. He built thirty observation blinds between 1978 and 1984 and between 1979-1984 led teams to survey and trap in nearby colonies. Although he no longer works on Great Gull Island during the summers, Matthew clears the island each spring using the tractor. Between 1992 -2006 Matthew repaired what remained of the dock each spring so volunteers could land on the island and use the dock during the summer. Recently Matthew has begun clearing bittersweet on Great Gull Island, pulling it off the gun emplacements using the tractor. He has worked with a friend, Rodney Maxwell to battle this persistent invasive with good results. Common Terns began nesting almost immediately in the newly cleared areas.


Loretta has worked on Great Gull Island since 1982. She leads the western end Common Tern check of the island. During the winter, in addition to teaching biology, Loretta finds time to come to AMNH to analyze blood volunteers collect in order to sex the birds. She is a great cook and revolutionized the design of hats worn by Common Tern checkers when she substituted artificial flowers sewn to the hats to replace sticks held on with duct tape. 


Richard hails from Naperville, Illinois and first came to Great Gull Island in 1981. Dick is a master of a number of things. He organizes the parties to load and unload the boat on the new dock and sees that everything goes smoothly and quickly. Dick is an excellent chick checker and trapper. When teams weed paths through the vegetation so they can check the overgrown meadow sections of the island, Dick’s paths are excellent, wide and clear. When Joe leaves the island in early July, Dick runs bingo. Dick serves as grill master throughout the season and everything is delicious.


Esteban first came to Great Gull Island in 1996 from Argentina. Since 2000 he has brought rangers to work on Great Gull during the busiest time of year, the last two weeks in June. The Argentineans are famous for working hard and performing the impossible immediately. For their larger construction projects see Volunteer Projects. In addition they put a roof over the dish washing area in 2008, installed a shower in Paight in 2009, painted KEEP OFF signs for the area near the new dock. For the last two years Esteban has brought his son Nuheun who has done an excellent job and made Helen completely revise her expectations for 15 and 16 year old students.


Gabriel Lugo - Puerto Rico

Gabriel Lugo, a wonderful photographer, took pictures, on May 10, 2008, of two Roseate Terns on the north coast of Puerto Rico. One was a color- banded individual. Second bird wore only a field readable band, but the photograph was clear enough to read the numbers and letter on the field readable. Grace Cormons and her team originally banded both birds on Great Gull Island. On 1 September 2009 Lugo photographed adult and young Roseate Terns on the north coast of Puerto Rico which were probably banded originally in the northeastern U.S. or Canada. These records show that, at least for some Roseate Terns from the northeast, Puerto Rico is a stopover point on their spring and fall migrations.

Pedro Lima – netting north of Salvador at Mangue Seco, Brazil

Pedro, probably the best netter of terns in Brazil, welcomed the Great Gull Island team to work with him in 1997. He and his wife Rita shared everything with them and made their home theirs. He facilitated their travel in Brazil and introduced them to Alberto Campos when they wanted to find terns on the north coast. The results of their netting with Pedro solidified their claim that Roseate Terns did spend the winter on the coast of Brazil.

Cooperators throughout ranges of Roseate and Common Terns

Alberto Campos –Aquasis –working on North coast of Brazil, State of Ceara

Alberto Campos at Aquasis’s new Manatee center. He and his co-workers facilitated conservation of the terns on the coast of Ceara. They report the fishermen in the village where they worked are no longer taking tern bands. Alberto has asked Joao Marcelo Holderbaum, staff member at Aquasis to expand the tern conservation program, already in place, to include the entire coast of Ceara. Joao will talk with fisherman in villages along the coast explaining why we band terns, what we have learned from banding them and the importance of protecting them. In 2011, Alberto sponsored two students to work with us on Great Gull Island for two weeks, during the peak hatch. Joao was one of them and started looking for terns along the coast of Ceara in the fall 2011.

Esteban Bremer - Argentina

Esteban Bremer directs an ongoing banding program at Punta Rasa, Argentina. Esteban welcomed the Great Gull Island team to Argentina and they work cooperatively with him on several projects.

Veronica Neves - Azores

Veronica’s work in the Azores involves monitoring the breeding populations of Common and Roseate Terns on all nine islands. In addition to the terns Veronica also works on Cory’s Shearwater, Bulwer’s Petrel and Macronesian [Little] Shearwater in the Azores. In 2011 Veronica put geolocators on 29 adult Common Terns, at Praia islet (off Graciosa) in order to better understand the migration routes and stopover points during migration for this species.

Utku Perktas - Department of Ornithology - American Museum of Natural History

Utku is a post doc from Turkey on a fellowship in the Department of Ornithology at AMNH. He offered to design and create a Great Gull Island website and maintain it. In preparation he and his wife Ezgi visited Great Gull Island in July of 2011. Utku returned to the island in September for a work weekend, then built the web site.

Office Volunteers

Leandro Bugoni PhD, Universidade Federaldo Rio Grande (FURG), Instituto de Ciensias Biologicas, Campos Coreiros, CP 474, CEP 96201-900, Rio Grande. RS, Brasil. -LINK

In 2003 Leandro, working with Tom Cormons, tracked radio-tagged Common Terns to feeding areas offshore in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Later, working with colleagues from the University of Glasgow and using radio transmitters he tracked Spectacled Petrels to their breeding ground on Inaccessible Island in the South Atlantic.

Teresa Grimm

Lydia Thomas

Lee Allen

Cecilia Rothschild

Lottie Prushinski

Nancy Perkins

Barbara Saunders

Matt Cormons - Azores

Between 1999 and 2003 Matt worked with Veronica Neves, trapping Roseate Terns in the Azores. In 2004 he returned and cleared areas on some of the islands to see if Roseate Terns would use these cleared areas for nesting. In 2010 he returned once more to help Veronica control the Starling population in the Azores which was limiting nesting success of the Roseate.

Charles Siano

Carine Mitchell

Jim Hyland

Mimi Fries