Stephen Brown

Vice President, Science

One of the big questions we are addressing through our research is determining what threats limit shorebird populations.

The work of the Arctic Shorebird Demographics Network (ASDN), which included 16 partner organizations, has substantially increased our ability to address a wide variety of science and conservation goals. We co-led the network of partners along with Rick Lanctot from the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Brett Sandercock from Kansas State University.  Through this partnership and collaboration, the ASDN has examined species and topics at a very large scale (e.g., Russia to western Canada). The ASDN team has collected data on migratory connectivity, as well as adult survival, productivity, and other demographic parameters at various stages of a shorebird’s annual cycle. Manomet and partners have published numerous papers documenting shorebird trends and identifying the root causes of declines.

The most recently published paper to come out of the initial five years of fieldwork by ASDN partners is Predictors of invertebrate biomass and rate of advancement of invertebrate phenology across eight sites in the North American Arctic.

“The invertebrate data collected by researchers at the Arctic Shorebird Demographics Network were really unique by providing consistently collected information on insects across a large portion of the North American Arctic,” says Rebecca Shaftel, Aquatic Ecologist, Alaska Center for Conservation Science at the University of Alaska Anchorage and lead author of the paper. “It provided us with a great opportunity to explore how changing environmental conditions may be impacting food for shorebirds. Insects are also an important food for stream fishes and pollinate many Arctic plants; I hope that our findings inspire additional uses for this great dataset.”

Insects in the Arctic respond to temperature; as temperatures warm earlier in the spring, insect development needed to reach emergence progresses more rapidly. In the Arctic, this temperature-driven emergence results in a huge abundance of insect life in a very short time. Over thousands of years, shorebirds have evolved to time their nesting to coincide with that abundance. If all goes right, the chicks hatch right as insects emerge and become their main food source. These insects provide the chicks with a good source of protein which they need to grow quickly in preparation for their southward migration to Central and South America.