It's a New Day

October 2021

Vol. 49, No. 5

The Importance of Counting Shorebirds: Manomet’s International Shorebird Survey (ISS)

Lisa Schibley

A mixed flock of shorebirds at Monomoy NWR. Photograph by Alan Kneidel.

In the early 1970s, Manomet biologist Brian Harrington was pondering important questions of shorebird migration and population biology. The shorebirds he was considering were those that nested in the high arctic tundra and then passed through North America, following the sun to winter in South and Central America. The puzzle was that the places where shorebirds spent the majority of their time, both north and south, were often remote and logistically complex for shorebird scientists to access. So how could scientists, with limited funding, best document population sizes and trends for these long-distant migrants? Brian hypothesized that a dedicated and enthusiastic group of shorebirders across the Western Hemisphere could, by counting shorebirds on their migration routes, supply necessary data to shorebird scientists and conservation partners. This network of volunteers evolved into Manomet’s International Shorebird Survey (ISS), one of the longest-running citizen science projects in the world.

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