Tag Archives: University of Connecticut

Calling All Birdwatchers: For the Birds, and for Us

Imagine knowing the abundance, distribution, habitat preferences, breeding ecology, migration pattern, and wintering habitat for 100+ bird species in the State of Connecticut. This is no simple task, but it is one that the University of Connecticut and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, along with many other partner organizations, citizen scientists, and bird lovers alike are willing to take on. The Connecticut Bird Atlas, starting in Spring 2018, will be the second such atlas conducted in the state, with the first Atlas of Breeding Birds in Connecticut published in 1994.

The scarlet tanager, a neotropical migratory species, was identified as a “Forest Health Indicator Species” by the Connecticut Forestlands Council Forest Ecosystem Health Committee for deciduous woodlands.

Unlike the first Connecticut Breeding Bird Atlas which aimed only to identify breeding distributions of Connecticut’s birds, the new study will survey distribution and abundance patterns throughout year, during both the breeding and non-breeding seasons. “The assessment will give us more detailed ecological information in terms of breeding dates, timing of migration, when wintering species arrive to overwintering areas, and how long they stay in overwintering areas,” says Randy Dettmers, senior migratory bird biologist for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service division of Migratory Birds, and contributor to the Connecticut State of the Birds.

Almost three decades since the first Atlas, the habitat for birds in Connecticut has changed significantly. Development and expanding infrastructure have fragmented habitats, a benefit to birds who are habitat generalists but a detrimental change for species that require large areas of undisturbed forest; reforestation of previously developed land has benefited birds that use both mixed hardwood and coniferous forest, but presents challenges for birds that rely on early successional habitats (young forests); loss or conversion of agricultural lands has negatively impacted birds that prefer the old agricultural fields or grasslands but benefit birds who prefer forested habitat; and more variable climate conditions have resulted in birds with a historically “southern” range to now reside in Connecticut year-round. The new Atlas will capture the changes in abundance, distribution, and species composition as a result of these habitat changes, and the data will have implications for creating sound conservation plans, including the Connecticut State Wildlife Action Plan, that will benefit birds and other wildlife.

Zone land cover change in Connecticut from 1985-2010.

Birds are an indicator species for the health of our environment, meaning the presence, abundance, or absence of birds is indicative of a change in the biological health of an ecosystem.

Birds make an excellent proxy for diagnosing the health of an ecosystem which includes birds, other wildlife, and people. They serve as an indicator for how we are adapting or not adapting to the changing landscape and changing climate, making the new Atlas an essential decision-making tool for land managers, municipal planners, developers, state and federal agencies, and conservationists alike.

The cerulean warbler was identified as a “Forest Health Indicator Species” by the Connecticut Forestlands Council Forest Ecosystem Health Committee for deciduous woodlands. Among the rarest Neotropical migrant songbirds, their populations continue to decline due to loss of breeding, migrating, and overwintering habitat.

As often stated, birds do not recognize boundaries, and can be thought of as having dual citizenship. Therefore, the new Atlas will not only provide important implications for the state of Connecticut, but will be used to develop and implement comprehensive, region-wide conservation management strategies. “The updated information from the new Atlas will help us understand how different bird species are shifting their distributions and abundance in southern New England,” says Randy Dettmers. “When comparing the data to information from surrounding states, we will gain a better understanding of how birds are responding to larger environmental changes, including changes in land use, levels of contaminants in the environment, and changes in temperature and precipitation patterns.”

The golden-winged warbler was identified as a “Forest Health Indicator Species” by the Connecticut Forestlands Council Forest Ecosystem Health Committee for shrubland and young forest habitats. Populations are declining due to loss of breeding and wintering habitat.

Without citizen science, scientists would not be able to collect the necessary data to accomplish the task at hand.

The CT Bird Atlas project will be accomplished through the collaborative work of professionals and citizen scientists. Interested in taking advantage of this opportunity to learn about birds and their habitats, gain science skills, and connect with nature while giving back? Check out the CT Bird Atlas website here to see how you can get involved!

 

The Internship of Opportunities

Hispanic Access Foundation Intern, Kelsey Mackey, does it all through outreach and environmental education with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Be sure to join us all summer as we hear from our interns about their work and experience. 

My name is Kelsey Mackey, and I am graduating from the University of Connecticut in July 2017 with a Bachelor’s degree in biological sciences. Currently, I am a cross-programmatic intern for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the Hispanic Access Foundation. My love for wildlife and passion for conservation developed at a young age, and I continue to epitomize these values both personally and professionally. I connect on a personal level with the mission of the Service – to work with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

Kelsey Mackey teaching students about the Connecticut River Watershed at Cops & Bobbers, Hooks & Ladders Youth Fishing Program in Hartford, CT.

I am grateful and excited for the opportunity to make an impact in urban and underrepresented communities through community outreach and environmental education. During my time at the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, which represents the Connecticut River Watershed, I will be involved in the Sustainable Springfield Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership that aligns with the Service’s Urban Wildlife Conservation Program. Specific outreach events include Cops & Bobbers, Hooks & Ladders youth fishing program, designed to teach kids to fish, connect with the outdoors, and develop positive relationships with law enforcement in their communities, and community block parties designed to engage, educate, and inspire people to become environmental stewards in their own community.

In addition to actively participating in the Sustainable Springfield Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership events, I will also work for the Richard Cronin Aquatic Resource Center. Current research at the center includes glochidia propagation in an effort to restore native populations of mussels throughout the Connecticut River Watershed. As a cross-programmatic intern, I will also have the opportunity to work in the Service’s Northeast Regional Office in External Affairs, where I will work on projects in communications and the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program. My overarching goal is to educate and inspire communities to work together in collective action to ensure a bright future where both people and wildlife can thrive and coexist.

Meet #ScienceWoman Deb Rocque!

Deb Rocque BrandedOur #ScienceWoman campaign kicked off during Women’s History Month, and we’re going to keep on rolling! We’re looking forward by honoring women across the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and female conservationists who are making history in our agency and in conservation. With each #ScienceWoman, we’ll share a photo and a couple questions and answers about her work. Stay tuned for more posts!

Meet #ScienceWoman Deb Rocque, our deputy regional director for the Northeast Region.

Deb studied ornithology at the University of Connecticut and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Her female conservation hero is Brina Kessel, the first female professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Deb working with eiders at Walrus Island. Photo courtesy of Deb.

Deb in Walrus Islands (Alaska) for a project on eiders. Photo courtesy of Deb.

Q. How did you get interested in conservation?  A. I spent summers with my great-grandmother. We were always outside and she was always teaching me about critters and encouraging me to muck around in tidal pools.

Bill Archambault,  Deputy Assistant  Regional Director for Fisheries (left), North Attleboro National Fish Hatchery Larry Lofton, and  Deputy  Regional Director Deborah Rocque peer into a viewing pool with Atlantic salmon at North Attleboro National Fish Hatchery. Credit: Catherine J. Hibbard/USFWS

Bill Archambault, Deputy Assistant Regional Director for Fisheries (left), North Attleboro National Fish Hatchery Larry Lofton, and Deputy Regional Director Deborah Rocque peer into a viewing pool with Atlantic salmon at North Attleboro National Fish Hatchery. Credit: Catherine J. Hibbard/USFWS

Q. If you could have one incredible animal adaptation, what would it be? A. Flight! How cool would it be to never be stuck and traffic again?

See more #ScienceWoman profiles!