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Shorebird Science and Conservation Collective

  • A long-billed curlew flying over a body of water with low grassy hills in the distance
  • A foam mat with small GPS transmitter devices designed for tracking migratory birds
  • A researcher holds a shorebird gently in his hands on a sandy shore near a body of water
  • A close-up of the face of a shorebird (black-bellied plover) with mottled feathers, a short, straight beak and dark, round eyes
  • A researcher holds a shorebird (black-bellied plover) equipped with a GPS transmitter "backpack"

About the Shorebird Collective

For the first time, hundreds of datasets from scientists tracking shorebirds across the Western Hemisphere have been shared to create a single resource under the Shorebird Science and Conservation Collective. Initiated by a Smithsonian researcher, the collective brings together the knowledge of agencies, universities, nonprofits and community scientists to advance shorebird conservation in the Western Hemisphere.

The work of the collective is accomplished by three Smithsonian Knobloch Shorebird Conservation Fellows who are working to translate shorebird tracking, survey and community science data into on-the-ground conservation action. An advisory group composed of key shorebird conservationists and researchers, sociologists and public policy professionals helps to guide the focus of the collective and to ensure community support. Under this working model, the collective aims to provide:

  1. Hemisphere-scale analyses that can be down-scaled to identify important sites and gaps in knowledge
  2. Scientific support to regional initiatives focused on shorebird conservation in the Central and Mississippi Flyways
  3. Scientific support for three to five local conservation initiatives

Shorebirds travel thousands of miles every year, spanning hemispheres and stopping at beaches, marshes and grasslands along their migration routes. Throughout their vast range, shorebirds are negatively impacted by a variety of factors at both local and international scales. Many populations have lost more than 70% of their numbers over the past 50 years, making them one of the most vulnerable bird groups in North America. These staggering trends emphasize the need for coordinated, focused attention on shorebird conservation.

Over the past decade, scientists have tracked hundreds of shorebirds with tiny, electronic tags that transmit locations to orbiting satellites, revealing the annual migrations of species such as the black-bellied plover, lesser yellowlegs, long-billed curlew and buff-breasted sandpiper. These data have unveiled the mysteries of habitats that shorebirds rely on during their epic migrations and how sites across a vast region are interconnected. Missing from these species-specific discoveries, however, is a synthesis across multiple species to inform conservation across regional flyways. To overcome this, the collective is synthesizing movement data to address urgent shorebird questions and is a central resource for meeting the scientific needs of conservation stakeholders.

Data Contributors

As of January 2022, contributors have shared tracking data from 2,842 individual birds across 29 shorebird species, demonstrating how conservation can be supported through collaboration. Data contributors include:

  • Alaska Department of Fish and Game
  • Aquasis Migratory Shorebird Conservation Project
  • Audubon Canyon Ranch
  • Aves Uruguay
  • Biodiversity Research Institute
  • BiodiversityWorks
  • Birds Canada
  • Carleton University
  • Centro Universitario Regional del Este, Universidad de la República
  • Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Coastal Bird Program
  • Department of Defense, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson
  • Dirección of Protected Areas of Buenos Aires Province, Organismo Provincial Para el Desarrollo Sostenible
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada - Canadian Wildlife Service
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada - National Wildlife Research Centre
  • Gulf Coast Bird Observatory
  • Intermountain Bird Observatory, Boise State University
  • Manomet, Inc.
  • Max Planck Institute for Ornithology
  • McGill University
  • Montana State University
  • Mount Allison University
  • National Audubon Society
  • Norwegian Institute for Nature Research
  • Point Blue Conservation Science
  • Polar Knowledge Canada, Canadian High Arctic Research Station
  • Portland Audubon
  • Prince William Sound Science Center
  • Ricketts Conservation Foundation
  • Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
  • SAVE Brasil
  • Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
  • Southern University of Science and Technology, China
  • SUNY-ESF
  • Texas A&M University-Kingsville
  • Trent University
  • Tunghai University
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • U.S. Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center
  • Universidad Austral de Chile
  • Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León
  • Université de Moncton
  • Université du Québec à Rimouski
  • University of Alaska Anchorage
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • University of Colorado Denver
  • University of Maine
  • University of Missouri
  • University of Oklahoma, USA
  • University of Saskatchewan
  • University of South Carolina
  • Wetlands International
  • Wildlife Conservation Society

Interested in contributing your data?

Join the Shorebird Collective as a data contributor and science partner. The collective works with each data contributor individually, offering a range of data-sharing permissions to give you the flexibility to decide how to share your data. For more information or to participate, please contact Allie Anderson at AndersonA@si.edu.

The Shorebird Science and Conservation Collective is funded by a grant from the Knobloch Family Foundation. This initiative is led by Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center Research Ecologist Autumn-Lynn Harrison, Ph.D., and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Alaska Shorebird Coordinator Richard (Rick) Lanctot, Ph.D.

For more information or to participate, please contact Autumn-Lynn Harrison at HarrisonAL@si.edu.