This fellowship has provided an opportunity to learn so much about the atoll, these birds, their behaviour, and what will work best in keeping them safe while trying to protect other species, as well. It’s given me an exclusive, insider look at the Fish and Wildlife Service, it’s structure, and how projects are carried out, while also having the chance to explore a new facet of wildlife management (and in an unconventional manner due to the current pandemic). Being involved with an unprecedented and ground-breaking project, as well as a fantastic team, has been such an incredible honour.
Even if Midway Atoll is seemingly “just” a little island out in the middle of nowhere in the ocean, it is still an important factor in migratory connectivity, playing it’s role as a piece of the global ecological puzzle. Thus, it’s important to safeguard these birds and their habitats every step along the way. As Diego Luna Quevedo (Conservation Specialist with Manomet) has so eloquently put it:
“Rutas y corredores de las aves migratorias que no saben de fronteras ni divisiones entre países. Nos unen. Nos conectan.”
“Routes and corridors (flyways) of migratory birds know not of borders or divisions between countries. They unite us. They connect us.”
(Pacific Golden Plover: Sharif Uddin; Laysan & Black-footed Albatross: USFWS; Bristle-thighed Curlew: Tony Davison; Midway Atoll map: USFWS/GoogleEarth/Europa & Maxar Technologies/CNES/Airbus, overlays: USFWS, & edits: Selena Flores; scare-eye balloons image: Bird-X; owl decoy: Yardwe; speaker: Eaton/Wheelock; holographic tape: KINGLAKE)
Just as the fields of ecology and conservation biology are like puzzles themselves, I’ve also been puzzling together a myriad of factors to encapsulate a final product. From comparing timelines of shorebird migration and when rodent bait will be applied on the island, creating layered maps, examining various types of data, to understanding bird behaviour and researching available scaring methods that are most likely to remain effective, synthesising all these different forms of information is necessary to create a cohesive plan and schedule to be used.
The aims of this project are not limited to just this kind of situation, nor just to Midway Atoll. The hope is that this plan will have further applications, being useful to the needs of not only similar rodent eradication projects, but also to airports, agriculture, and other bird safety mitigation measures. Having a concrete protocol, and the results when this plan does get implemented, can be transformed into a toolkit of best practices to share and adapt.
(Midway Atoll aerial image: US Navy; Midway Atoll unofficial flag + heart graphic: SaliVit/Shutterstock; presentation title slide + infographic: Selena Flores, Ruddy Turnstones in flight: Daniel Caracappa; official logo courtesy of USFWS; custom edits: Selena Flores)
It has been wonderful to be a part of this important project to protect shorebirds that connect our world. The fellowship period has been very active and busy, but has led to a sense of being “good tired,” from being involved in meaningful work. It’s also been so different from my graduate programme, which is just what I needed to shake things up a bit during my dissertation-writing process!
I am so grateful for the supportive communities and their assistance, from training sessions to career advisors, from one-on-one meetings to giving presentations to showcase our work, all further solidified our professional connections, and showed first-hand that these mentors are dedicated to ensuring our success, during the programme and beyond. I look forward to maintaining these contacts after the fellowship and exploring career options, which makes me hopeful for continued involvement with USFWS.
Being a Directorate Fellow and MANO Project intern has definitely made an impact on me; I will cherish and carry this experience with me throughout my career, and will encourage others to apply and take part! Particular thank-yous must go to my supervisor Beth Flint, the various partners of the Midway Atoll Seabird Protection project, the USFWS NCTC and Pacific Region staff, the Hispanic Access Foundation and MANO Project staff, as well as the rest of 2020 DFP cohort!
For now, it may be time to migrate onward…but again, like the shorebirds, I hope to return to working with the service in the future!
(Midway Atoll unofficial flag header image: Oleksii Liskonih/iStock; silhouettes of shorebirds in flight: WaderQuest/Rick & Elís Simpson; custom edits: Selena Flores)
Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service - DFP
Location: Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge