Sunday, October 24, 2021

Stewardship and Citizen Science – a Win-Win for Marco Island

“Stewardship and Citizen Science” was the third presentation in the Breakfast with the Birds series hosted at the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center. It featured Adam DiNuovo of Audubon, Florida (AF) with 20 years’ experience and an impressive background with shorebirds both on the East, West and Gulf coasts.

According to DiNuovo, citizen science is changing the scientific landscape with citizens/volunteers collecting data and observations that are vital in monitoring wildlife population and movements. Researchers would not have half the data they need without the volunteers.

Natalia Hanks, the Audubon Anchor Steward for Collier Stewardship Program, is at Sand Dollar Island with a team of volunteers every weekend all day educating the public about the summer nesting birds, like the least terns and black skimmers. Marco Island has one of the largest colonies of black skimmers in the Eastern United States. Due to the volunteers, the birds don’t get flushed, and the young grow up strong and healthy and become better breeders for the next season.

According to Maria Bachich, a Shorebird Steward, “If people become more aware of the magnificent nesting birds on this wonderful landscape, they are more likely to protect them.”

In 2017, DiNuovo started the black skimmer banding project. The volunteers wake up early in the morning to band the birds. For Natalia Hanks, “It is always fun to try to spot as many banded chicks as possible. Banding is important because re-sightings give data as to survival rate and migration patterns. This allows us to better understand these birds and get a better idea of how to help them be the most successful they can be.”

Daily, Rookery Bay Research Reserve’s Team OCEAN volunteers monitor Critical Wildlife Areas such as Second Chance Island and other nesting sites in the preserve. They provide information to boaters and beach visitors about the birds and on ways that humans can help protect these wildlife areas.

From salty birds, Adam switched his attention to Marco’s burrowing owls. During the mid-season nesting report Alli Smith, Owl Watch biologist, reported 252 pairs of owls in Marco (193 last year) and on week 11, volunteers recorded 3,000 observations which translated to 500 hours of observation. As a research biologist for Audubon of the Western Everglades, she is thrilled with the amount of information collected.

According to DiNuovo, “Here in Marco Island, we have this piece of a special place like Tigertail and Sand Dollar Island, which is the last remaining nesting shorebird habitat that for now has seen little degradation.” Per DiNuovo, “It is super important to conserve it. Volunteers are badly needed to protect our birds and no prior experience is required – just curiosity and love for wildlife.”


    Mark your calendars for August 20 at 9:30 AM, “Water Quality and Seabirds – The Lost Summer of 2018.” This is the last presentation in the Breakfast with the Birds series at Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center.

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