My primary research interest is
tropical avian ecology, using birds as environmental indicators of
habitat change and condition. My secondary area of interest includes
the breeding and population status of single-species, neotropical
migratory birds of conservation concern in coastal North
Carolina and coastal and inland South Carolina, in particular, how we may raise their populations to
healthy and sustainable levels through monitoring, research and
community outreach education.
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Harpy Eagle Belize Project
Bunting Observer Team Project
The eastern population of Painted
Bunting (Passerina ciris) is in decline.
The main goal of this project focuses on developing strategies for
sustaining eastern Painted Bunting populations, with volunteers
playing a major role in monitoring and collecting data in the field
to meet that goal.
comprehensive wildlife conservation strategies have emphasized a
need for multi-scale avian monitoring programs (i.e., North
Carolina and South Carolina), as well as national
(Photo by Mark Jones)
North American Bird Conservation Initiative). A key issue for
monitoring programs is that they must be designed and implemented so
that the result assesses changes in populations and habitats over
time as well as detect species-specific trends of distribution and
population size. These data then guide future management and/or
conservation strategies. Because it is not always economically or
logistically feasible for state and federal wildlife agencies to
directly carry out all monitoring identified, some monitoring may be
best accomplished by employing citizen science models.
Avian citizen science projects can
successfully carry out research and/or monitoring programs that are
otherwise impossible to carry out by employing field technicians.
Reliability of volunteer observations is high, with quality datasets
used in many peer-reviewed publications. Using a citizen science
approach, we initiated the Painted Bunting Observer Team Project,
studying the eastern population of Painted Bunting in North and
Breeding Bird Survey data shows that
eastern Painted Buntings have declined at least 3.2% annually over a
30 year period, possibly due to increased coastal development and
agricultural practices, both of which reduce the shrub-scrub brush
vital to breeding Painted Buntings. Since Painted Buntings readily
visit backyard bird feeders, citizen scientists can readily
participate in a variety of data generating components that aid us
in comparing subpopulations breeding in suburban, rural and natural
habitats. Along with backyard banding, these data can include
quantifying demographic parameters such as population distribution,
density and abundance; productivity and adult survival; and,
behavioral patterns of site-fidelity and habitat use.
For more information on the Painted
Bunting Observer Team (PBOT) Project, please contact me directly via
email at email@example.com,
and/or visit the project website at
For Students: Each year I recruit
several undergraduate students as interns on the project.
Please contact me if you are interested.
The An Integrated Community-Based Harpy Eagle and Avian Conservation
Program for the Maya Mountains Massif
Historically, research and monitoring
of species of flora and fauna
in the protected areas of the Maya Mountains Massif (MMM) of Belize
have been conducted primarily by foreign scientists. These studies
have had little to no direct benefits to the local community members
in the buffer zone communities that border these areas. What little
benefits that have been received, have been temporary, such as
salaries for jobs such as porters or cooks. These short term
benefits, although helpful, have had little long term impact on the
local populationís appreciation of the protected areas themselves,
and have not created a society of advocates and supporters of the
MMM. This disconnect between hard science and the local society
creates an adversarial condition, with locals perceiving science as
a benefit for foreign academics, and the protected areas
by Steven Brewer)themselves as partially set aside for use by
educated non-Belizeans, who do not contribute on a measurable scale
to the economic development of the local economies. This is
particularly true in protected areas such as the Bladen Nature
Reserve, where its strict category of protection prevent even
tourism as a means of alternative livelihoods for locals such as
tour guiding and providing other services.
Our goal is to build capacity for avian
conservation in the Maya Mountains by enhancing the links between
protected areas and their surrounding communities. Project
objectives include surveys and monitoring of rare Harpy Eagles (Harpia
harpyja), other raptors, and the bird community supported by the
Reserve, providing base-line data; a community- based
alternative livelihood strengthening program for the development of
a core group of Avian technicians from buffer zone communities
providing them the tools for acquisition of science based skills in
the use of GPS, bird identification, scientific methodology and data
collection; and an environmental awareness and education program.
The project is supported by the Nature Conservancy Belize Program.
For more information please visit the
Nature Conservancy website:
and/or the Belize Foundation for Research and Environmental
Education (BFREE) website:
For Students: We are now
accepting applications for undergraduate student internships for
Belize. Also, this fall, we will be initiating our new Masters
Program in Environmental Studies and I will be taking applications
for qualified students interested in an independent research project
in Belize. Please contact me directly.
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