Conserve Wildlife Blog

Archive for the ‘Mapping’ Category

Shorebird Expedition Brazil: Conducting a scientific investigation in a tropical wilderness

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

By Larry Niles, LJ Niles Associates LLC

It’s hard to imagine the difficulties of people living here at Latitude 37 Degrees North when arriving at the equator in northern Brazil. It challenges even the hardiest of biologists. However, after three days our team has not only acclimated but we accomplished surveys in two separate estuaries.

 

Ruddy turnstone multiyear flight recorded by a geolocator caught in Maranhoa, Brazil.

 

Low tide was cut short on our first day in the field, while high tide persisted longer than we expected which challenged our surveying since it must take place when birds forage. Shorebirds typically forage until 1 to 2 hours before high tide and start again 1 to 2 hours after high tide, usually resting and digesting the food consumed at the lower tides. Because we intend to understand the foraging habitats of shorebirds in the wintering area, we must focus on the lower tides. This is always difficult due to logistical issues such as renting boats, equipment failures, and long distance from the ports present an array of complications. Still, we were able to go out in the field and collect some data.

 

The next day we did marginally better, each team member faced different problems. Our boat engine failed and we had to paddle back to port, another boat took so long to get to the shoal we intended to survey that it had already been covered by the tide.  But this is the nature of field work anywhere.

 

Yann and Christophe paddle our boat back to port after the engine failed.

 

No matter the complication, it is important to stick to our rigid protocols.  Our goal is to determine the best places for shorebirds in this area. We must work with the shorebird’s behavior because each tidal stage creates different value.  In a wild place such as this, they will choose to roost as close to the foraging areas as possible. In fact most will just roost then feed as the tide recedes then feed as the tide rises and then roost again.  So locating the feeding areas will usually indicate the roosting areas.

 

But things can go awry. In human dominate habitats like New Jersey, birds find it hard to roost near foraging areas. Most often the high tide forces them into people jogging, dog walking or enjoying flushing shorebirds.  So the shorebirds must leave, unnecessarily burning valuable fuel and suffering greater danger from avian predators.

 

The night-time roost creates the real threat here in Brazil and everywhere. At night many dangers lurk.  Ground predators, such as owls, feral cats, raccoons, and even people will take advantage of any unwary or sickened bird.  It is worse when birds are forced to use areas that are less secure than others. This can happen naturally at spring tides, for example, when the very highest high tides force them closer to the dangers lurking in the dunes or mangrove forests.  In places like Hereford, New Jersey, people often force birds to use more dangerous areas.

 

Larry Niles surveying.

 

So our goal here is to map all the areas of importance – foraging, day-time roosts and night-time roosts.  But we hope to do it with remote sensing; satellite maps that are trained by a mathematical model, that are, in turn, trained by our field data.  We count birds, photograph the surrounding habitats, precisely locate the sites, and even look at the substrate.  Is it mud, sand, muddy sand, sandy mud and so on?

 

Doing this in New Jersey is difficult.  Doing it in the northern coast of Brazil presents untold challenges.  One cannot easily access the coast here.  We have to rent boats to take us out to the birds, conduct surveys then get back before dark.  Sometimes we go out for days and stay in remote fishing villages, sometimes with only a floor to sleep and no facilities or power. Imagine unrelenting heat, mosquitoes, persistent blowing sand, copious sweat, and trying to conduct a scientific investigation. That would be demanding in any environment.

 

So this is the challenge of our crew – and they do it aplomb!  Last year one of the boats sank in 55 feet of water 8 miles out to sea. We all made it to land safely but we lost much of our equipment. The day after was grim, wondering if we should we go on or go home?  Without hesitation, not only did the crew go on to complete the survey but we ended up capturing twenty-two geolocators from ruddy turnstones tagged two years earlier. A good crew is hard to put together and stay productive in these conditions. A good spirit is the most important thing.

 

Our team chooses areas for the next day’s surveys. Beer is essential!

 

So we completed two days of surveys at the western end of our 150 miles long study area. Today we prepare for three days out to a remote area, accessible by boat only.  As I write, the team prepares for food, water and all the necessities of spending three days with minimum comfort.  We hope to camp in a fishing village, maybe a house, but we won’t know until we get there. We must prepare for all possibilities.

 

Our understanding of the inner workings of the Brazilian Extractavista reserve system grows every day. This system I believe holds great hope for us in the United States because it serves both the wildlife and fish and the people living in the landscape.  Pretend, for example, on Delaware Bay, the rural towns and the residents get first crack at the sustainable management of resources, not the companies exploiting them without regard to the future, as it is now. Instead of few people earning a good living off Delaware Bay resources, many would. Rural American would be transformed. This is what ICMBio hopes to achieve in this much poorer area.

 

Two members of our team are managers of the seven reserves in Para, our study site. They told us, for example, ICMBio (Chico Mendes institute), the federal agency in charge of the extractive reserves, pays a subsidy for local fishermen in exchange for helping manage the fishery resources. But the subsidy is limited to existing residents, not people within new reserves because of the new conservative government. One can see right away the challenges of two people managing seven reserves covering a coastline the size of New Jersey. Budget cuts have taken away all equipment funds. They must even clean their own offices as most nonessential staff has been cut under the new conservative government, a government accused of unfairly deposing the most popular liberal party.

 

This should resonate in the United States because it could be coming soon to a wildlife reserve near you.

 

Wintering knots in roost.


Dr. Larry Niles has led efforts to protect red knots and horseshoe crabs for over 30 years.


 

2016: A Good Year For NJ Bald Eagles

Friday, January 13th, 2017

216 Young Produced from 150 active nests.

Larissa Smith & Ben Wurst: Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ

The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ in partnership with the NJ Endangered and Nongame Species Program has released the 2016 NJ Bald Eagle Project Report and the new and improved Eagle Tracking Maps. In 2016, 172 eagle nests were monitored during the nesting season. Of these nests 150 were active (with eggs) and 22 were territorial or housekeeping pairs. A record high of 216 young were fledged. The success of the NJ Eagle Project is due to the dedicated Eagle Project Volunteers who monitor and help to protect nests throughout NJ. (more…)

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey “2015 Annual Report” Released

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

CWF Releases its Second Annual Report Using a Story Map Format:

2015 Annual Report


Technology has proven to be vital to Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s work protecting rare wildlife species over the years. Our biologists depend greatly on modern technologies to band, track, and share online the journeys of wildlife. Our webcams broadcast the most intimate behaviors of nesting birds and bats across the web. And we seek out ever-evolving communications technologies to spread the word about the inspiring stories of wildlife, from social media and infographs to e-books and Story Maps. These technologies offer newfound abilities to share complex data on multiple levels, while still incorporating the awe-inspiring photography and videos that bring wildlife’s stories to life.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey is excited to offer our 2015 Annual Report in a unique format that utilizes one of those technologies – Story Maps. In the past year, we have explored the lives of seals, eagles, and freshwater mussels with Story Maps – and the annual report allows all of our projects to be highlighted in this interactive format as well.

Visit the multiple pages within this Story Map to learn about Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s many projects and partnerships in 2015, and the imperiled wildlife species in need of our help. Find examples of the innovative and dedicated leadership of our biologists and volunteers. And take an online journey across the state to learn how our projects made a difference in all corners of New Jersey in 2015 – a great year for wildlife in the Garden State!


 

Winners of the 2016 Species on the Edge Art & Essay Contest

Thursday, May 19th, 2016
2016 Species on the Edge Art & Essay Contest Winners Represented on New Story Map

Conserve Wildlife Foundation’s 2016 Species on the Edge Art and Essay Contest gave fifth grade students from across the state the opportunity to research an endangered species and submit a drawing and essay written from the animal’s perspective. Meant to support awareness of endangered species in students, the Species on the Edge Art & Essay Contest encourages fifth graders to think like wildlife biologists as they gather research and learn about pressing environmental issues. The results of this contest are the subject of our newest story map!

sote2016

This interactive map allows the user to click on icons to see participating schools, first and second winners from each county, and honorable mention entries. Scrolling through the text on the left side changes the content of the points on the map. A click on each map point brings up more information, like the number of classes from each school that submitted an entry. While scrolling through the list of winners, users can even click on the schools’ icons to bring up the students’ names, essays, and artwork.

The format of this story map is simple and easy to use, allowing for an interesting, interactive way to display the hard work of students across New Jersey.

Learn more:

Marine Debris Makes Conserve Wildlife Foundation ‘Crabby’

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016
CWF leading the charge to provide free recycling and disposal of derelict fishing gear throughout the Barnegat Bay watershed

by Lindsay McNamara, Communications Manager

Abandoned crab pots unnecessarily trap fish and harm the marine ecosystem, according to the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ. (Image: NOAA)

Abandoned crab pots unnecessarily trap fish and harm other marine life. Photo credit: NOAA

 

Conserve Wildlife Foundation is proud to collaborate with the Fishing for Energy partnership — an innovative public-private effort that provides commercial fishermen a no-cost solution to recycle old and unusable fishing gear — to recycle an estimated 26,000 pounds of derelict crab pots and other marine debris collected throughout the Barnegat Bay watershed as part of a removal project over the next two years. On Friday, we celebrated our new project with our Fishing for Energy partners at a press event in Waretown, New Jersey.

 

Abandoned or lost fishing equipment can threaten marine wildlife, like diamondback terrapins, in a number of ways, including by damaging ecosystems as nets and heavy equipment settle upon the ocean floor and through “ghost fishing,” wherein gear continues to catch fish and other wildlife even if abandoned or lost. Gear also can impact navigational safety, damage fishing equipment and boats that are in use, and have economic repercussions on fishing and shipping enterprises and coastal communities.

 

In just six days, RJ Cericola and other local fishermen have collected over 160 abandoned crab pots!

Look at all the abandoned crab pots removed so far!

Look at all the abandoned crab pots removed so far!

 

“By recycling thousands of dangerous abandoned crab pots, our team is protecting vulnerable wildlife such as the diamondback terrapin, which inhabit the same shallow coastal waters in Barnegat Bay where pots are often lost or abandoned,” said Stephanie Egger, CWF wildlife biologist and principal investigator. “Terrapin population declines, reduced growth, and changes in sex ratios have been directly attributed to by-catch mortality in crab pots. We are so thrilled to work with local fishermen and all of our project partners, particularly the Fishing for Energy program, NOAA, and the New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership.”

 

This two-year marine debris removal project, led by CWF and supported by a NOAA Marine Debris Program Community-based Marine Debris Removal grant, is working with local crabbers to locate and remove more than 1,000 derelict crab pots from Barnegat Bay. As part of this project, CWF is partnering with the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science, Monmouth University, Stockton University, ReClam the Bay, New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership (NJCWRP), and the recreational and commercial fishing community to identify, retrieve, and inventory derelict crab pots. The project is also conducting education and outreach activities on the impacts of derelict crab pots including the development of a lesson plan for schools, presentations for the community, developing informational print materials, and collaborating with the WeCrab education and outreach project led by the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve/Rutgers University and Stockton University.

MATES students collecting data on the derelict crab pots.

MATES students collecting data on the derelict crab pots.

 

“NJCWRP is proud to support this coalition of partners working on innovative projects to benefit the ecological quality of Barnegat Bay,” said Russell Furnari, chair, NJCWRP. “Removing thousands of these derelict crab pots not only enhances habitat, but also reduces navigational hazards, human health issues, and fishery impacts. We are thrilled to help provide outreach and educational campaigns to the local community, which will prevent additional lost pots and promote a deeper understanding of the bay’s habitat and wildlife.”

 

The Fishing for Energy partnership provided funds for the transportation and disposal of the gear found in Barnegat Bay through Covanta’s Energy-from-Waste facility in Union County, New Jersey. At the Covanta site, any metal found on the debris will be recycled and the remainder of the traps converted into clean, renewable energy that will power area homes and businesses. The recycled materials will be processed and converted into enough energy to power 2,200 homes for a month!

From left to right: CWF's Stephanie Egger, Covanta's Meg Morris, NFWF's Courtney McGeachy, and Covanta's Kristin Blake.

From left to right: CWF’s Stephanie Egger, Covanta’s Meg Morris, NFWF’s Courtney McGeachy, and Covanta’s Kristin Blake.

 

Fishing for Energy is a nationwide partnership between the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation; the NOAA Marine Debris Program; Covanta, a New Jersey-headquartered sustainable waste and energy solutions company; and Schnitzer Steel Industries, one of the largest metal recycling companies in the United States. The partnership offers conveniently located collection bins for disposal of old fishing gear, making it easy for fishing communities – even small coastal communities like Waretown and Mantoloking – to deal with the issue of derelict gear. As a result, the partnership reduces the amount of gear that ends up in U.S. coastal waters and recycles and converts the remaining gear and debris into clean, renewable energy at Covanta’s Energy-from-Waste facilities.

 

Making Headlines: News Coverage from the Press Event:

 

Learn More:

 

Lindsay McNamara is the Communications Manager for Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.

 

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