Reflections on 2017 and Changes Coming in 2018

Happy New Year Midwest Coordinated Bird Monitoring Partners:

As I reflect on 2017 and prepare for the year ahead, I find much to be thankful for.  Through strong and sustained partnerships, we have accomplished a lot over the last 12 months:

  • Midwest Avian Data Center (MWADC): We doubled the number of bird observations in MWADC, ranging from Breeding Bird Atlas to nocturnal bird, aerial transect, secretive marshbird, and point count datasets. Great progress was also made on applications to streamline data download, upload, and analyses; upgrading the bird phenology (histogram) tool; and integrating the Great Lakes Migratory Bird Stopover Model. Expect these system enhancements to go live in 2018, and big thanks to the developers at Point Blue Conservation Science!  We are also offering at least two training workshops in 2018 and owe special thanks to Gareth Rowell (NPS) for his work to bulk upload data and develop training materials!
  • Secretive Marshbirds: Surveys continued in most of the states within our partnership, and we welcomed new leadership to our working group (thanks to Rachael Pierce (USFWS) and Mike Monfils (MNFI))! Several analyses are underway to develop regional population estimates and evaluate how wetland management impacts secretive marshbirds, and a working group meeting is being planned in conjunction with the 2018 Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference.
  • Midwest Migration Network (MMN): The Midwest Migration Network has been hard at work, prioritizing species and research questions, developing cooperative projects around banding, tracking individual movements, and radar/acoustics, and hosting a workshop this past November. A standardized protocol for migration banding stations is currently in review, and improving data management processes through a partnership between MWADC and the USGS Bird Banding Lab will enable better integration of datasets. Special thanks to Amber Roth, Bill Mueller, and Bryan Lenz for their continued coordination of the MMN!
  • Grassland Birds: Kelly VanBeek (USFWS) is providing new leadership to several activities under the grassland bird umbrella – thanks Kelly! TheConservation Atlas for Midwest Grasslands, an online mapping and data-sharing platform hosted by Data Basin, continues to be updated with new spatial information about bird populations, ecosystem services, and conservation opportunities.  New projects to measure impacts of row-crop agriculture on survival of post-fledging birds and to test sustainable monitoring protocols for grassland birds are under way!   
  • Northern Forest Birds: Our very active Steering Committee has been hard at work outlining priorities and direction for the working group. They also convened avian experts in the US and Canada to review breeding season scores for the new Avian Conservation Assessment database, which will serve as a good foundation for conservation planning in the northern forest. Finally, our Steering Committee is planning a workshop, Charting the Future for Northern Forest Birds, for April 2018, with a focus on launching collaborative projects to address bird science needs and apply this knowledge to active forest management, restoration, and protection. Special thanks to Erin Giese (UW-Green Bay) for serving as working group co-leader!
  • Monitoring and Mapping Avian Resources in the Great Lakes: A multi-year project being led by Michele Leduc-Lapierre (Great Lakes Commission) is nearing its conclusion. Cooperators gathered aerial transect data to document nearshore and open water use of the Great Lakes by waterbirds during non-breeding season. In early 2018, data and data summaries from Lakes MI, Huron, and Erie will be available in MWADC, and a report with monitoring recommendations for the future will be shared broadly. 

We have also taken the opportunity over the past year to evaluate the Midwest Coordinated Bird Monitoring (CBM) Partnership, with the goal of ensuring a sustainable future for its working groups, MWADC, and a continued emphasis on coordinated monitoring. We’re trying to have the biggest impact for furthering bird conservation in the Midwest Region that we can. Therefore, through a series of meetings among the Midwest CBM Steering Committee, Joint Venture, and USFWS Migratory Bird Program staff, we have arrived at the following decisions for the CBM Partnership looking ahead:

  • The Midwest CBM Partnership will be joining forces with Joint Ventures and Mississippi Flyway technical sections, ensuring greater integration of monitoring into decision frameworks and that coordinated monitoring activities are addressing the highest priority regional objectives. As a result, the Midwest CBM Partnership will sunset as an independent entity by August 2018.
  • The Midwest CBM website will only remain live until July 2018. We will transfer relevant information from the CBM website to USFWS Region 3 Migratory Bird Program, Joint Venture, Flyway, and MWADC websites as relevant.  We want to preserve this information and ensure its access.
  • Midwest CBM Working Groups will be aligned with appropriate JV Science Team bird committees or Flyway working groups. A list of working group leads is provided below, and you are encouraged to follow up with them for updates and to stay engaged throughout the transition.
  • MWADC will continue to serve as a data management, sharing, and aggregation system for Midwest bird conservation partners. USFWS staff and partners will continue to assist with bringing in data, offering training, and identifying new tools that are needed.  We also plan to form an advisory committee in 2018 to develop a sustainable business plan and growth strategy for MWADC.

Understandably, it will take some time to work through the mechanics of this transition, and I will continue to provide updates as they are available.   I also invite you to follow up with me personally if you have questions or would like to discuss this matter further. 

We have accomplished a great deal since we began in 2009, and I am excited for continued progress in the years to come.  Thank you, all of you, for your commitment to bird conservation!

Sincerely,

Katie Koch
Phone: (906) 226-1249
Email: katie_koch@fws.gov

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