On March 12, Point Blue Conservation Science received a Wings Across the Americas Award from the U.S. Forest Service for promoting international cooperation through the Migratory Shorebird Project.  The Migratory Shorebird Project connects 10 countries in a collaborative multi-national research program aimed at protecting shorebirds during a time of rapid environmental change.

Associate Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, Mary Wagner, presented the prestigious international 2014 Wings Across the Americas Conservation Awards at this week’s 79th North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference, in Denver, Colorado.  Point Blue’s  Dr. Matt Reiter, who chairs the Migratory Shorebird Project and Dr. Eduardo Palacios, of Centro de Investigación Científica y de Educación Superior de Ensenada in Mexico, accepted the award on behalf of over 100 individual and organization partners.  Forest Service employees and their collaborators were recognized for their outstanding work in the conservation of birds, bats, butterflies and dragonflies.

The multi-national Migratory Shorebird Project, which works in 10 countries and coordinates 500 people to collect data on over 1.5 million shorebirds each year, seeks innovative and collaborative solutions to the significant environmental challenges facing shorebirds and coastal habitats.

“At a time when pollution, development, extreme weather events and sea-level rise collectively threaten our wetlands and other natural areas in unprecedented ways, international leaders are coming together through the Migratory Shorebird Project to address these challenges,” said Dr. Grant Ballard, Chief Science Officer, Point Blue.

Shorebirds are truly migratory superheroes! Ranging widely in size from six to 23 inches in length, they travel thousands of kilometers between their winter and summer grounds. Weighing only 30 grams, the Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri) migrates over 15,000 km each year.  Sometimes congregating in flocks of tens of thousands, shorebirds are some of the most visible yet least studied of birds. Their populations are declining due to habitat loss and degradation and are further threatened due climate change, particularly sea-level rise.

“These small, feathered, international commuters are bringing together people from a diversity of cultures, ages, communities and backgrounds in one joined effort to help shorebirds, the environment and human communities, especially in the face of climate change,” said Dr. Matt Reiter of Point Blue. 

Over the course of ten years, the Migratory Shorebird Project will assess the relative influence of threats facing shorebirds and find innovative conservation solutions to reduce the impacts of those threats so that people and birds can share a healthy Pacific Coast of the Americas for years to come. The recognition for international cooperation is a critical step to ensure the success of this ambitious project.