PRBO Conservation Science
Quarterly Journal of PRBO Conservation Science, Number 158, Fall 2009: Notes From The Field


From the Shores of the Mediterranean to the Shores of Central California

International Conservation Mission

by Asaf Mayros

Conservation Success on Private Lands
CEO's Column
International Conservation Mission
Kenya Connection
Mixed Marine Signals
Teacher At Sea
PRBO Highlights
Securing Our Future
Focus on Outer Point Reyes
Staff Migrations

As part of our multi-faceted partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, PRBO recently hosted a group of Middle Eastern visitors, including the author of this "field note"(for which we are most grateful).—Editor

Not long ago, I was searching for images of terns as examples for a logo I was designing, for a new birding, education, and conservation center we are establishing on the Mediterranean shore. The obvious flag bird for the new center would be the Common Tern, which nests there in relatively large numbers. An Internet search for "tern + logo" poured out many pictures, including one that caught my eye immediately, a gently outlined tern. "That's the kind of thing I was thinking of," I said to myself—not knowing that within a year I would visit the place whose logo I admired.

Asaf Mayrose.
My visit to PRBO was part of a two-week group study tour in June 2009, organized and sponsored by the Inter-national Programs of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), to a number of prime sites across the United States. Members of our Middle East tour group intend to develop a regional partnership that will promote migratory bird conservation in our region—in the largest flyway in the Eastern Hemisphere.

Along with our USFS hosts, the tour members included: Osama El-Gebaly of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency; Mahmoud Farag of Nature Conservation Egypt; Ibrahim Khader from Jordan, coordinator of Birdlife International's Middle East division; Imad Atrash, director of the Palestine Wildlife Society; Mengistu Wandafrash, director of the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society; Yoav Perlman and Asaf Mayrose of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel; and Hazell Thompson, coordinator of Birdlife International's Africa division.

Following a three-day visit to southeastern Arizona, our second stop was PRBO, where Geoff Geupel welcomed us at the Palomarin Field Station. One of the main objectives of our visit was to learn about the variety of PRBO training programs offered at Palomarin, in order to subsequently tailor similar programs that would meet our own organizations' needs.

Geoff Geupel explains PRBO's long-term mist-net monitoring to visitors from across the Middle East.
Geoff proved to be the right person to lead such a discussion, as he himself stepped into the Palomarin Field Station some 30 years ago, as an intern—and never left. Instead of being discontent staying in the same place, he impressed us as constantly learning and developing professionally. Giving us more examples of how this business works, he pointed out that some of the interns we met were "recaptures"—people now working for PRBO after an earlier visit or internship; one of them is following the footsteps of his father! Geoff also explained how PRBO uses science to inform conservation policy, in a manner that actually makes a difference for birds and habitats in North America.

Another quality of PRBO that was beautifully stressed during the entire visit was the priceless value of continuity and persistence in research methods and data accumulation. We were astounded by the length of time the same methods have been applied, with nets posted in exactly the same positions and birds' territories and nests mapped and monitored on the same slopes year after year. As was shown in several presentations we received, analyzing long-term data leads to better evaluations of population trends and risk factors affecting bird distribution and migration, and to a better understanding of ecological processes that occur on small and large scales.

One of the best examples was the presentation given by PRBO's Chief Executive Officer Ellie Cohen, who spoke enthusiastically about what we can do to begin addressing the impacts of global climate change on bird populations, among other topics. For some of us this was a real eye-opener: we understood that conservation strategies we apply in our countries today may prove effective in the future only if we bring these large-scale changes into account.

The tour schedule called for us to hit the road the following day, for Klamath Bird Observatory in Oregon. But the most enthusiastic birder in our group, Yoav Perlman, insisted on a bird walk before we left, with the legendary Rich Stallcup. So we made an early-morning visit to Drakes Beach in the Point Reyes National Seashore, which turned out to be one of the most magical experiences we had on the trip; we were all very grateful not to have missed it. After the long, intense discussions of the previous day, it was one of those mornings that recalibrates your mind and senses to the reason for all the efforts we put into conservation—the sheer beauty and sensation of being out there connected with all forms of life.

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