The Audubon Coastal Bird Survey (ACBS) program, developed by Dr. Mark LaSalle of the Pascagoula River Audubon Center, is a volunteer-driven Citizen Science effort that engages birders in the monitoring of coastal habitats and wildlife, particularly birds. As with all Citizen Science programs, data collected by volunteers can will generate a wealth of data on population trends that can help establish baselines, track populations, and support conservation goals for Audubon and its partners wherever the program is established. Please consider volunteering for this important program today!
For Audubon, the ACBS will contribute to supporting all three of its program areas of conservation, education, and public policy (i.e., the three "legs" of the Audubon "stool'). Data on common birds is important to establishing population trends that can direct conservation actions at selected sites or for broader regions of the country. Increased awareness of the needs and threats to birds and habitats forms the basis of Audubon's education programming. For public policy, increased awareness can advance the advocacy of policies that protect birds and habitats. Like all Citizen Science efforts, the ACBS will boost engagement that can move constituents from initial interest in assisting Audubon to broader opportunities of support.
The impetus for the development of this program is based on the efforts of two Louisiana State University (LSU) ornithologists students who sought an opportunity to engage amateur birders to assist in the documentation of oil impacts to coastal bird populations associated with the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill event of spring 2010. Although the protocols developed by the LSU team were initially focused on detecting oil impacts to birds, the program defined here leads with the assessment of basic conditions of bird populations (i.e., species presence and abundance), with opportunities to document and report on observable physical and behavioral impacts to birds from oil exposure, and basic conditions and observable impacts to the habitat being monitored.
Goals and Objectives
The program will establish a robust Citizen Science effort that can engage volunteers in establishing a detailed and long-term database on coastal birds and habitats. Data will be useful research and wildlife management communities as well as for advancing the restoration-focused policies with lawmakers and the general public. . As such, the protocols used by volunteers are simple, yet can provide useful data on habitat conditions and bird and wildlife populations that are robust enough to address trends over time and to document observable impacts. The can engage relatively large numbers of current and new Audubon volunteers, providing them with opportunities to learn more about coastal habitats and birds, and contribute to the development of long-term data sets on the conditions of habitats and bird populations. Click here to see Part One of a video series on the program.
Benefits of enlisting the support of volunteers for basic survey efforts include the following. Volunteers can;
• Provide more eyes and ears on the ground.
• Allow for broader coverage across habitats (i.e., more sites).
• Collect data over multiple seasons of the year.
• Collect greater amounts of data on common species, as well as providing opportunities for observations of less common species.
These data can, therefore, contribute to ongoing assessments of Common Birds in Decline and Watch List species. Data collected by these volunteers can also direct more detailed assessments by skilled teams of scientists focused on questions generated by these surveys.
Efforts can range from a focus on easily accessible and walk able segments of open beach and shoreline areas to less accessible marsh and open water areas, as appropriate and practical. When appropriate, ABCS volunteers can also be enlisted to assist with surveys on state and federal lands that may require more effort to access.
The program is designed to engage a network of volunteers dedicated to maintaining a visual watch along coastal shorelines, focused on observing and reporting on conditions of birds and habitats. Key components of the program structure include:
A system of permanently established shoreline segments (e.g., 1-mile stretches of beach or marsh shoreline) that are representative of each target habitat. NOTE: to some extent, multiple segments within each habitat type represent replicate sites for purposes of analysis.
Each segment is assigned to small teams (2-5) of volunteers who report conditions on a regular basis (e.g., at least monthly) or more frequently in response to documenting impacts associated with natural (storms) or human events (oil spill).
Volunteers report data through the E-Bird reporting system that will allow for immediate access by interested parties.
Volunteers will also provide information to an established chain of Audubon communicators who will relay ongoing information concerning the spill and its impacts on habitats/species.