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Shorebird Science and Conservation Collective

  • 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"

For the first time, hundreds of datasets from scientists tracking shorebirds across the Western Hemisphere will be shared to create a single resource under the Shorebird Science and Conservation Collective. Initiated by a Smithsonian researcher, the collective brings the knowledge of agencies, universities and nonprofits together for shorebird conservation. Three Smithsonian Knobloch Shorebird Conservation Fellows will support the project to translate the shorebird tracking, survey and citizen science data into on-the-ground conservation action. 

Shorebirds travel thousands of miles each year, spanning hemispheres and stopping at beaches, marshes and grasslands along their migration routes. Human activity continues to negatively impact shorebirds throughout their vast ranges, at both local and international scales. Many populations have lost 70-98% 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, revealing the annual migrations of species such as the black-bellied plover, lesser yellowlegs, long-billed curlew and buff-breasted sandpiper. Researchers are unlocking the mysteries of the habitats shorebirds rely on along their migratory routes and how these locations are connected. However, species-specific discoveries have yet to be synthesized to inform conservation for as many species as possible across regional flyways in the Western Hemisphere.

The Shorebird Science and Conservation Collective aims to integrate these disparate datasets into a shared resource, by coordinating with existing initiatives and linking efforts to deliver essential information across species and flyways in Canada, the U.S., and Latin America. Many datasets have already been contributed, demonstrating how conservation can be supported through collaboration. As of April 2021, contributors include:

  • Alaska Department of Fish and Game
  • Aquasis Migratory Shorebird Conservation Project
  • Audubon Canyon Ranch
  • Aves Uruguay
  • Biodiversity Research Institute
  • BiodiversityWorks
  • Carleton University, Canada
  • Centro Universitario Regional del Este, Universidad de la República, Uruguay
  • 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, Arentina
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada - Canadian Wildlife Service
  • Gulf Coast Bird Observatory
  • Intermountain Bird Observatory, Boise State University, USA
  • Manomet, Inc.
  • Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Germany
  • McGill University, Canada
  • Montana State University, USA
  • Mount Allison University, Canada
  • National Audubon Society
  • Norweigan Institute for Nature Research, Norway
  • Point Blue Conservation Science
  • Polar Knowledge Canada, Canadian High Arctic Research Station
  • Portland Audubon
  • Prince William Sound Science Center
  • SAVE Brasil
  • Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
  • Southern University of Science and Technology, China
  • SUNY-ESF, USA
  • Tunghai University, Taiwan
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, Mexico
  • Université de Moncton, Canada
  • Université du Québec à Rimouski, Canada
  • University of Alaska Anchorage, USA
  • University of Alaska Fairbanks, USA
  • University of Colorado Denver, USA
  • University of Oklahoma, USA
  • US Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center
  • Wetlands International
  • Wildlife Conservation Society

The collective’s work will enable private landowners, natural resource managers, conservation groups and others to make decisions informed by the latest scientific knowledge and advance shorebird conservation in the Western Hemisphere.

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.