Grassland Bird Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment Meeting

Friday, December 20, 2013
On Dec 4-5, a group of NE CSC-funded scientists met with managers involved in grassland bird conservation to begin to build a demographic database for a select group of grassland bird species.


Meeting Summary:  The purpose of this meeting was to gather collaborators for the NE CSC-funded “Fitting the climate lens to grassland bird conservation: Assessing climate change vulnerability using demographically informed species distribution models” project. The meeting was held in Madison, WI on December 4-5, 2013. In attendance at the meeting was Christine Ribic (co-PI; USGS/UW Madison), Benjamin Zuckerberg (co-PI; USGS/UW Madison), Lisa McCauley (project postdoc; UW Madison), James Ellis (IL Natural History Survey, Prairie TAG Coordinator for ETPBR LCC), Scott Hull (WI DNR), David King (US Forest Service), Katie Koch (participating remotely; US FWS), Melinda Knutson (US FWS), David Lorenz (UW-Madison), Lars Pomera (UW Madison), Rosalind Renfrew (Vermont Center for Ecostudies), David Rugg (US Forest Service), David Sample (WI DNR), Susan Skagen (USGS), Gwen White (ETPBR LCC Science Coordinator), Tom Will (US FWS).

Goals for this meeting included: (1) establishing relationships among collaborators and project leaders; (2) remind collaborators of the project objectives/goals; (3) select and prioritize model species; (4) discuss climate sensitivities of grassland birds; (5) gather information about demographic data for grassland birds to begin building the demographic database; and (6) discuss current grassland bird projects and management and how this project can inform those projects.

We selected and prioritized the grassland bird to species to model as follows: (1) Henslow’s sparrows; (2) Prairie chicken; (3) Bobolink; and (4) Horned Lark. We discussed specific sensitivities of grassland birds to potential climate change and the vital rates that would be best to include in models due to availability. Collaborators suggested that land use change will be an important part of any future modeling and we discussed the possibilities of incorporating scenarios of future land use changes (e.g. a conservation-minded future, a biofuel-centric future, a business-as-usual future). We gathered a list of potential demographic datasets and the contact information for the gatekeepers of those datasets. Each participant in the meeting discussed the ongoing grassland bird projects in their region and potential ways that we could intertwine this project with those. General conclusions were that this project may be useful from a regional conservation planning scale but may not be able to provide information for on- the-ground management. We also discussed data management and the consequences of using other people’s data, how we will be archiving the data for this project, and options available for data archiving.

We ended the meeting with action items that included creating a data agreement to provide data gatekeepers when we request use of their data. We agreed to include language to suggest the Avian Knowledge Network for gatekeepers to archive their data because our project will only archive summaries and estimates from gathered datasets. The project leaders agreed to investigate the possibility of using land use change scenarios in the project and potential datasets for this. Finally, we agreed that future communication among the group will be on an as-needed basis. Project updates will be made via email and future conference will be conducted as collaborator input is required.

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