Gulf of Mexico Avian Monitoring Network: A Forum to Facilitate Integrated and Complementary Data Collection for Avian Populations and Their Habitats

Mitch Eaton, SE Climate Science Center

Project Completion: This project is now completed.
Implements Science Theme: 4 & 5
Co-Investigators: James Lyons (USFWS, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center), Randy Wilson (USFWS), Mark Woodrey (Coastal Research and Extension Center-Mississippi State University), Jeffrey Gleason (USFWS), Michael Just (Assistant, NCSU Global Change Fellow)

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
American Bird Conservancy
Audubon Mississippi
Barataria Terrebonne National Estuary Program
Biodiversity Research Institute
Connecting Conservation
East Gulf Coastal Plain Joint Venture
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Grand Bay NERR
Gulf Coast Bird Observatory
Gulf Coast Joint Venture
Gulf Coastal Plains & Ozarks Landscape Conservation Cooperative
Gulf Coast Prairie Landscape Conservation Cooperative
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences
Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality
Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks
Mississippi State University
National Audubon Society
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
National Park Service
North Carolina State University
Ocean Conservancy
Southeast Climate Science Center
Smithsonian Institution
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
The Nature Conservancy
Tulane University
University of Florida
University of Georgia
University of West Florida
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
U.S. Geological Survey


The Deepwater Horizon oil spill directly impacted birds and their habitats at an unprecedented scale within the Gulf of Mexico. Early efforts to determine pre-spill baseline conditions for avian resources highlighted the lack of adequate data to inform decision-makers, as well as the lack of any comprehensive, integrated approach that would permit evaluation of realized damages or response to future on-the-ground restoration efforts. However, this environmental disaster has also resulted in an equally unprecedented focus on the Gulf ecosystem and resources to support its restoration and recovery. Designing a coordinated, integrated, and collaborative avian monitoring program for this system has many challenges: (1) the scope and scale of the Gulf ecosystem, (2) the number of partners, stakeholders, and required expertise; and (3) the amount of funding required to successfully design and implement a Gulf-wide avian monitoring program. Yet meeting this challenge is imperative to understanding population trends and cause and effect relationships that underscore demographic processes that drive trends; as well as providing a basis for judging success of Gulf restoration efforts.

Over the last two years, an ad-hoc working group of conservation partners representing >20 agencies and organizations have been utilizing a Structured Decision Making framework to identify and agree upon a set of core values and fundamental objectives that underpin avian monitoring needs within the Gulf of Mexico.