North American Breeding Bird Survey
Strategic Planning Workshop
November 15-16, 2005
MEETING MINUTES AND PRODUCTS
Keith Pardieck and Dave Ziolkowski, Jr.
Karen Buehler (Day 1)
Tom Will (Day 2)
Eighteen individuals participated including representatives from the U.S. and Canadian national BBS offices, Mexican National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity, Canadian Wildlife Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, North Carolina State University, North American Bird Conservation Initiative, and Partners in Flight. See Appendix A for a complete list of participants and contact information.
We thank all of the participants for their attendance and service at the meeting and extend special thanks to Tom Will for graciously accepting the challenge of facilitating on the second day.
Evaluate and prioritize the needs and goals of the BBS program as identified by the Peer Review report, BBS program managers and the avian conservation community. Prepare a 5-year strategic planning document for the BBS program that:
1) prioritizes and determines relative resource requirements to the pending peer review recommendations and other identified issues,
2) identifies the issues of greatest import to the BBS program over the next 5 years, and
3) outlines a strategy, timeline, and resource needs for accomplishing each 5-year goal.
See Appendix B for collective list of individual participant goals and objectives.
Facilitated discussions and break-out groups designed to distill, capture, and prioritize the key scientific and operational issues facing the BBS.
A collective visioning exercise was performed primarily as a preamble to developing a mission statement. Each participant was asked to envision: Where the BBS should be 5 years from now? How would the success be measured? Who would recognize the success? Participants then broke into four teams to further develop these visions. The group did not consolidate a collective vision statement due to time constraints and doubts as to need, since the BBS is a tool not an organization. However, a vision statement could be written using the elements captured by the four teams.
See Appendix C for a listing of vision themes and elements captured by each team.
Participants developed a mission statement by collectively considering the following guidelines:
1) what does the BBS do,
2) who does it do it for / or with whom,
3) what is the benefit or value of BBS products
A facilitated whole group discussion resulted in the following BBS mission statement:
“We provide scientifically credible measures of the status and trends of North American bird populations at continental and regional scales to inform and assess* biologically sound conservation and management actions*.”
* Note: Continued discussion centered on whether to add the words “assess” and “actions” to the finished statement. There appeared to be tentative agreement to retain both.
BBS SCIENTIFIC GOALS
A combination of facilitated whole group discussion and break-out group work yielded three primary scientific goals of the BBS. Participants were given the opportunity to identify two priorities each.
Numbers in parentheses indicate total priority votes. Bulleted items beneath each goal indicate discussion items and were not necessarily agreed upon by the entire group.
1. (17) Estimate Population Change
— using annual indices that also capture annual variation in bird numbers
— at the scale of a BCR or higher
— for individual species and for defined clusters of species (environmental indicators, species richness, community guilds, “state of the birds” reporting?)
— with specified resolution (power to detect 50% decline over 20 years) and accuracy (80%)
2. (11) Provide Data for Model-based Conservation Planning
— models that associate bird populations with environmental features (e.g. habitat, climate, habitat change?)
— resolution of the causes underlying bird population variation
— combine BBS counts with habitat and other spatially explicit data to increase interpretation and application of BBS data)
— resolve species/habitat associations (species densities by habitat and landscape)
3. (3) Estimate Species Population Size (for setting population goals)
— provide the data and address the detection and bias issues that enable BBS to be used for this purpose
— provide acceptable range of accuracy for population estimates
SCALE OF BBS FOCUS
As a subtopic in the above exercise, participants were given an opportunity to identify the geographic scale that the BBS most appropriately addresses. Participants were nearly evenly divided between the regional scale (i.e., BCR; 6 votes) and the continental scale (5 votes), with several participants encouraging equal emphasis on both (4 votes).
ISSUES FACING THE BBS
An evaluation of the results of the preceding exercises identified several themes that capture the issues currently facing the BBS (list follows). In consideration of the limited meeting time remaining, the group conservatively agreed to single out one theme for initial consideration that warranted the most discussion.
Total individual votes indicated by the numbers in parentheses.
I) Enhancing Data Quality for Science (14)
II) Enhancing Data Use (1)
III) Building and Maintaining Support (3)
The first theme was selected and subsequently sub-divided into four topic areas, each further discussed by specific break-out groups:
Ia) Enhancing Geographic coverage
Ib) Increasing Observer Quality
Ic) Addressing Habitat Bias Issues
Id) Addressing Bias in Detection Probability
The break-out groups additionally recommended strategies for addressing each of the goals within the four topic areas.
After reformation of the entire participant group, participants split into two break-out groups to further tackle Issues II and III. Each break-out group again further fleshed out the issues and proposed recommended strategies.
BREAK-OUT GROUP RESULTS
I. ENHANCING DATA QUALITY FOR SCIENCE
Areas to be addressed:
Filling gaps within
current BBS coverage area ( e.g. northern fringe of
- Habitat gaps (high mountains; native grasslands) – not addressed by this group
STRATEGIES 1-3 BEST ADDRESSED BY A SINGLE INTEGRATED STUDY/ANALYSIS
? - Find ways to run at least 1 route/degree block throughout continental coverage area. [This recommendation requires long-term action and high resources. Need guidance from trend analysts & modelers on importance of even coverage, relative to items below.]
1. Do new analysis of precision of trends at “continental” scale (current U.S. & Canada BBS coverage area) to develop more detailed advice on number of routes needed within BCR or continent to meet precision target for each species at each of these scales. (Assume precision target is that of Bart et al. 2005.) Provide guidance on minimum/maximum N routes/degree block that are needed to meet precision targets. (I.e. – maybe no value of adding after you have a certain number/block.) Need to consider effect of uneven coverage within BCR – what guidelines should there be for min/max n routes/degree block.
2. In the short term (i.e., before analysis done),
develop interim guidelines for regional coordinators for
3. Analyze current BBS data based on sub-set of stops (e.g. first 20) to examine effect on trend and precision. Examine effects of uneven geographical distribution of short routes. Develop recommendations for length of routes for Mexican program and appropriateness of mini-routes in far north.
4. Hold a meeting to develop a preliminary strategy for
expanding BBS into
5. Conduct a study in which routes are run by observer and recordings are made simultaneously, which are later counted by a different observer, with objective of recommending whether recording is a useful means of covering routes where no observers are available.
Group Ib: Increasing Observer Quality - Recruitment Issues
See Appendix D for further details of the group’s considerations
Format: * Goals
Strategies (5-Year Priority)
OBSERVERS & DATA QUALITY
*Hearing loss affecting data quality and can it be mitigated with hearing aides?
Subsample observers and evaluate (High)
*Are personal skill changes (sensu ID ability) affecting data quality?
Subsample observers and evaluate (Low)
availability affect data quality (especially consider
Subsample observers and explore correlations w/ equipment (Med)
*Do increasing ID abilities in the observer community as a whole affect data credibility?
Explore correlations with ‘changes in the birding community’ (Med)
*Does observer experience on the route affect data quality?
Subsample observers and explore correlations w/ experience (High)
Related to above - Observer turnover (how useful are short term observers?)
-Field skills (individual counts, recording data, etc.)
Certification - minimum observer quality standards.
Identification skills (Low)
Online skills test
In the field (i.e., w/ coordinator, mentor, etc.)
Methodology (Largely Complete)
Translate into Spanish (High)
Hearing ability (Low)
Regular hearing evaluations
- regular online skills testing
- regular in the field (i.e., w/ coordinator, mentor, etc.)
OBSERVER RECRUITMENT & RETENTION
The two priorities ranked highest above, hearing loss issues and observer route experience/turnover issues, are directly related to two observer attrition and recruitment issues.
*Is retaining skilled observers as important as new recruitment - can
observer longevity in the BBS be extended with the use of hearing aides?
*Short-term observers (e.g., field techs, college students, etc.) are available for many
routes but are currently discriminated against - do they provide more value in
our goal of filling all existing routes than they cost in data quality?
*Skilled observers are available for recruitment in areas where routes are covered – can
we create new routes for these folks even though that means uneven route dispersion
across the state?
*What is the likelihood of
filling routes in border BCR’s of
Group Ic: Addressing Habitat Bias Issues
On-road v. Off-road. -- This is a major criticism of BBS.
General -- Additional testing of roads as attractants or repellents for different species.
Consider prioritizing by habitats based on groups of taxa most in need of conservation
Consider road density, road type, land-use intensity in vicinity
Should we have a road condition co-variate – has profile or definition ‘secondary roads changed over time.
How is traffic being incorporated into data. How does this overlap with observer bias and hearing issues.
Priority -- High
· Form group that sets up studies; could habitat working group be peer-review panel to evaluate proposed studies and criteria for studies and RFPs, and priorities for next steps, guidance on this issue. Focused and limited feasible studies – initiate 3 within next 5 years?
Routes v. Habitat Coverage
Coverage uneven? How do we address at Continental level – it’s a habitat issue.
Lawlor paper in 2004 examined route coverage relative to habitat coverage. Will additional routes correct this, or should other methods be used. Resolution of land cover layers is very important.
How can NLCD (or other mapping re-GAP) be used coincident with BBS to inform analyses with current mapping that tracks land changes, resulting in analyses that show what is given up in terms of birds with land conversion.
Is radar an opportunity to look at on-road off-road issues.
Priority -- High
Evaluate what Lawlor and O’Conner. Finish
Inform habitat modeling and change over time in habitats
Especially to examine routes from one end to the other. And changes such as developments at specific stops – can be analyzed later.
Areal extent – is it 400 m radius around stop? Species specific, but
Priority -- High
· Canvass country to see where we stand, with level
· Within 5 years, GPS &/or geo – locate all stops (In some habitats assume ½ mile stops throughout, e.g. in ag areas?
· National initiative coordinated by States or state groups
· Need to set standard for volunteers? Within 25 m of GPS point? Emphasize importance of location. Incorporate into training.
· Ortho-photo quads or Google maps for people to mark on, in lieu of GPS.
· Strike deal with Google
· Map coordinator position on BBS or other USGS staff, contract out to get those digitized?
· Go through NBII
· Photo overlays also provide some habitat information
· NBII – locator for all monitoring activities; develop a tool for users to add points for their routes.
· Reconsider in 5 years habitat information
Other stop-level information to be collected?
· Don’t over-burden volunteers.
Co-variates of population change
To what degree could BBS incorporate co-variates into trend analysis: disease, weather cycles, annual effects v. long-term gross land-cover changes.
Priority -- Low
Acknowledge importance of some variables driving annual population change, including weather. Study whether or not it is useful to incorporate annual co-variates that might influence changes in bird populations
Develop Library of Models
Priority – Medium
· Have the habitat group evaluate models and coordinate spatial analyses available to research community and conservation managers.
Group Id: Addressing Bias in Detection Probability
See Appendix E for further details of the group’s considerations.
Strategies to deal with detectability effects
• e.g. running routes twice
• “removal” method approaches
– running routes twice (or multiple times)
– double observer effects
– (Note: requires framework to receive data into system)
3. Support (ongoing) research into factors that influence detectability:
- e.g. playback experiments (e.g. Ted Simons research)
- work with microphones and recordings
- include evaluating observers and observer training
-- Develop a working group to prepare an experimental design or call for proposals (could be external, e.g. to NSF)
-- Collaboration of operational and research people
-- Use results of estimation to model potential impacts on trend/population change estimates (i.e. to determine whether it really matters)
-- 2-year post-doc $85k, operations $40k
ADDITIONAL SCIENCE ISSUES DEEMED IMPORTANT BUT NOT COVERED BY BREAKOUTS:
*** Route replacement issues—need further study.
** What to do about requests for alternate routes? Need resolution and standard policy.
II. ENHANCING DATA USE
Philosophy: don’t limit people from doing what they want (but make sure they are aware of limitations)
- allow users to easily analyse multiple species when they do this!
- perhaps could get some NBII funding to help do some of this
MEDIUM: 2 – better integrate
web presence of BBS summaries (e.g.
HIGH: 3 – Encourage/explore modeling approaches that integrate BBS data with other sources of data (e.g. refuge data, point count data) in analyses.
- ensure that point level data are available along with coordinates
- Detectability and observer effects will help to enhance this
HIGH: 4 – Continue to practice high quality data management practices:
(still need to prioritize within this)
- flexible data base design
- HIGH: annual review of metadata to ensure complete and up-to-date as
possible. Formal review of metadata.
- HIGH: keep metadata on changes in routes over time (starting now).
allow volunteer entry of point level data
- HIGH: make stop coordinate (lat/long) information more readily available
- MEDIUM: species-name issues (scientific names, changes in taxonomy)
- HIGH: complete a stand-alone program for data entry for users who don’t want
to use web page to enhance amount of internet-based data entry.
- MEDIUM: ability to display locations data to enhance editing (and many other
Allow editing of stop location data – can probably be done with some
- MEDIUM: make .pdf files of individual routes available on web
- (some can take advantage of BBL expertise)
HIGH: 5 – BBS should encourage others to develop higher level of interpretation of trends: web site summarizes state of birds e.g., what is the meaning of trends.
- Greg Butcher: is interested in doing something with Audubon
- RSPB/BTO state of birds report.
- (fits within Build and Maintain Support)
HIGH: 6 – Encourage new approaches to analyses to enhance reliability of results, particularly for looking at annual indices (e.g. by making hierarchical models operational) to better understand non-linear population change.
- Develop a comprehensive (e.g. 20-page) users guide to the BBS for what it is, how it works, how to analyse the data, what are the limitations, differences in analysis methods among sites …, functioning like the PIF handbook.
- BBS office has a number of other idea to enhance outreach:
- e.g. Powerpoint presentations
How do you recruit?
From State coordinators – through their network.
Not all State coordinators are equally functional.
OR-WA PIF and other PIF coordinators. Connections within bird
conservation/birding community. Audubon.
“Conservation through Birding”
Agencies – IAFWA – Reiterate message from USGS to directors of agencies.
CONABIO – the database compilers in
connection. Perhaps could provide some funding for coordination, training,
perhaps in steps (north, mid, south) over 20 years.
Is there group ownership in running routes. Biggest thing with State
Coordinators is in connections they have with the birding communities.
Problem with organizations is the problem of volunteer turn-over. For routes not
being run regularly, could have birding clubs send teams of two, which would
include a trainee.
Master Birder – Course for people to learn about ecology and natural history….
Foundered because of lack of expertise to teach kids the upper levels of training
– needed naturalist or birding clubs to take this on.
Mentoring hugely important.
Rewards. Web-based gratification
Priority – Yep
Prioritiy – Ultra High and major purpose of document from this group
Prioritization of tasks/priorities identified within each topic area
Topic areas are: Enhancing Geographic Coverage, Increasing Observer Quality, Habitat Bias Issues, Addressing Bias in Detection Probability, Enhancing Data Use, and Building and Maintaining the Support Network. During break-out groups strategies were prioritized within topic areas. This exercise allowed group members to prioritize items relative to each other. Each workshop participant was given seven votes with only one vote per item permitted.
(Number of votes in parenthesis; science sub-group after dash)
Voting results may be
fundamentally skewed given the somewhat arbitrary lumping and splitting of priority
issues which may have caused some votes to be wasted on, what may be considered
in hindsight, sub-issues of an existing priority. For example, items 14 and 17 would seem to be
sub-issues of item 3; where a properly designed item 3 should inform us as to
the necessity of 14 and 17. Again, items
20, 10, and 6 (
Also obtaining “GPS Stop Locations” was identified as the top priority, which surprised many in the group given our discussions over the 2-day workshop. The voting system employed seems to have captured the most common interest among group participants (having stop locations), rather than the top BBS priority. Many are interested in having stop location data, but the reasons for having it vary with the individual.
1. Circulate workshop products to group.
2. Capture pertinent flipchart notes.
3. Minutes – Comments due by December 15
4. Start writing strategic plan
a. Charles Francis and Ricky Dunn – 1st draft
b. Connie, Dave, Keith, Marshall – 1st review
c. Review by Strategic Plan workshop participants & other identified stakeholders
d. Open review
e. Final report
5. Strategic Plan will be a trilateral document (parts relevant or differently prioritized for a single country should be flagged.)
6. Annual partners meeting to provide guidance/evaluation
7. Need to discuss formal research unit/team tied to BBS – flexible membership yet institutionalized in some way.
8. Working Groups (ad hoc)
Habitat – Neal Niemuth, Wayne Thogmartin, Andy Royle (others?)
Detectability – Ted Simons, John Sauer, Charles Francis, Andy Royle (others?)
Appendix A. Workshop Participants and Contact Information
Name Organization Telephone Number Email Address
1. Humberto Berlanga Mexican National Commission for the Knowledge and 52-55-5528-9176 firstname.lastname@example.org
Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO) / NABCI
2. Connie Downes Canadian Wildlife Service 613-998-0490 email@example.com
3. Paul Dresler USGS Status & Trends Program 703-648-4114 firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Erica Dunn Canadian Wildlife Service / PIF 613-998-7356 email@example.com
5. Charles Francis Canadian Wildlife Service 613-998-0332 firstname.lastname@example.org
6. Michael Green USFWS Non-game Migratory Bird Coordinator (Reg. 1) 503-972-2707 email@example.com
7. Marshall Howe USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center 301-497-5858 firstname.lastname@example.org
8. Eduardo Inigo Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology 607-254-2120 email@example.com
9. Neal Niemuth USFWS Habitat and Population Evaluation Team 701-355-8542 firstname.lastname@example.org
10. Keith Pardieck USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center 301-497-5843 email@example.com
11. Andy Royle USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center 301-497-5846 firstname.lastname@example.org
12. John Sauer USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center 301-497-5662 email@example.com
13. Todd Schneider Georgia Department of Natural Resources 478-994-1438 firstname.lastname@example.org
14. Ted Simons North Carolina State Univ./USGS Coop. Research Unit 919-515-2689 email@example.com
15. Wayne Thogmartin USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Science Center 608-781-6309 firstname.lastname@example.org
16. Tom Will USFWS Non-game Migratory Bird Coord (Reg. 3) / PIF 612-713-5362 email@example.com
17. Sandy Williams New Mexico Department of Game and Fish 505-247-3731 firstname.lastname@example.org
18. Dave Ziolkowski, Jr. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center 301-497-5753 email@example.com
Appendix B. List of Individual Participant Goals and Objectives
Workshop participants were asked to state their individual objectives and goals for this
Meeting. They were:
- maximize BBS data credibility
- develop 5-year plan with concrete objectives and strategies
- set priorities for future / ensure clear focus on priority setting
- discuss the direction of the BBS over the next 40 years
- Strengthen and potentially change the BBS
- Help move strategic planning process along / help group make decisions
- Ensure BBS has resources to meet objectives
- Discuss how to tap into funding
- Build better relationships between BBS and conservation community
- Ensure plan buy-in from stakeholders
- Better understand the BBS
- Give Canadian BBS and conservation perspectives
- Ensure Mexican BBS collaboration and connect CONABIO to common concerns
- See how my piece (i.e., research or conservation interests) fits into BBS plan
- Represent operational aspects of BBS
- Provide guidance
- Ensure that spatial aspects of data are represented
- Ensure data is applied for conservation purposes
- Market BBS better
- Not offend people
- Not take offense
- Work together
Appendix C. BBS Vision Exercise and Discussion Elements
- Partners working together to efficiently implement survey
- Improve science
- Improve image of BBS / Raise public awareness of program
- Data is used by conservation community
- Program evolving to meet future needs
- Funding is adequate to meet objectives
- BBS world-renowned as avian monitoring flagship and widely recognized for scientific integrity
- Program will have closer ties regional conservation initiatives that influence local management (e.g., Joint Ventures and BCRs)
- Scientific integrity of BBS strengthened by implementation of bias reduction practices
- Success of BBS tied to specific quantifiable measures (e.g., 4100 routes completed by 3600 observers annually, the data from which provides useable trends for 420 species)
- BBS fully creditable to scientists and public
- Data and trends widely accessed via beautiful and functional analysis portal
- Allows identification of landscapes for conservation concern
- Functional BBS Network
- Provides more information on causes of annual variation in bird numbers
geographic coverage by filling gaps and expanding into
- See that all routes are run annually
- Credibility of the data with respect to potential biases is greatly enhanced
- Base funding is commensurate with operational and research needs
- Data are incorporated into conservation planning and evaluation
- BBS sets standard for large scale, long term avian monitoring by combining best science with grass roots public participation
- BBS has been demonstrated, and is accepted, as reliable indication of change in bird populations
- Results are being used for decision-making and conservation
- BBS data and ancillary information being used to answer research questions
- Program is well funded and maintained
- Program evolving to meet future needs
Appendix D. Increasing Observer Quality/Recruitment Issues Group Discussion
*With nearly ¾ of observers over the age of 45, hearing loss may be significantly affecting the quality of BBS data.
*Is this age spread the consistent ‘age profile of the BBS’ or is it a cohort of observers moving through time? If it is the former – hearing loss may be a huge issue in the future.
*More than 45% of “retiring” observers recognize hearing loss as their primary reason for leaving the BBS suggesting the possibility of significantly cutting observer attrition if hearing aides are determined appropriate.
*Detection probability would be expected to increase in most cases (from a skills perspective) as observers become more experienced both as birders and with their routes in particular. This is a difficult variable to account for on a broad level and consideration of ameliorating the phenomenon seems futile.
*Mexican observers may not have the equipment available for use that US and Canadian observers do.
ID Abilities In The Community At Large-
*The average level of observer knowledge is likely higher today than in previous decades, when far fewer education resources were available. Therefore, detection probabilities (from a skills perspective) are likely higher today than in the earlier years of the survey. What affect has this had on trend interpretation?
Turnover/Observer Experience On Routes-
*Younger observes (college students, etc.) can rarely make a long term
commitment to the route and so are often discriminated against by coordinators
seeking a more long-term presence.
*Less than ¼ of observers are under the age of 45.
*We are not trying to train observers from ‘off the street’.
*More than 90% of observers have been birding for more than a decade – representing a mixture of training that would be hard for us to provide.
*There are other, more comprehensive education tools out there.
*Any of the following programs would likely require a corresponding education tool.
*Track the quality (skills, hearing, etc.) of our observers for analytical consideration.
*Establish minimum observer quality standards (regards skills, hearing, etc.).
*This may be necessary for the data to be considered legally defensible.
Appendix E. Addressing Bias in Detection Probability Group Discussion
Sources of Bias:
- Majority of birds detected by song
o Bystrak: 70% detected by song
o Does this vary a lot among routes?
- Issues that arise:
o Changes in singing rate with season and time of day and weather and all sorts of other things
§ Concern is systematic change over time
§ Annual effects
o Detection change from:
§ Increasing background noise
§ Observer change (hearing loss, etc.)
· Multi-year start-up effects
· Declines later on
§ Systematic increase in background noise
§ Systematic increase/decrease with vegetation
- implementing detection probabilities on a subset of routes
- Will only likely be useful for some species
- Need to do some, to find out how it will work
- intervals and how to deal with them in context of 3 minute count
- what percentage of routes?
- What percentage of stops?
Develop pilot work to determine ways this could be done operationally:
- done by observers?
- Measure background noise on routes
- Technology options – recording technology
- measuring background noises on routes
- hand-held sound meter ($150 dollars) – allows point estimates
- or recording? (sophisticated)
How is detectability influenced by habitat?
- may help with on-road, off road stuff
- all work done with leaf-off in winter
- intended to repeat last month, but didn’t happen
- started making expts very realistic, but then started dealing with subsets
- Future experiments:
o May help with training
o Can teach people interested in this topic about how well they do.
Talked with Arch McCallum and others at Cornell
- using the playback system to calibrate their system
1 – Start to implement specific approaches in an operational context on a subset of actual routes.
- objective is to determine what is feasible
- pay people to run specific protocols (e.g. 2-3 runs per year)
- Select a subset of routes in a sample of BCRs
- re-run those routes twice and try double observer effects
Questions: what is toolbox to consider?
1 – distance sampling does not seem practical or useful (Simons research)
2 – replicate surveys – run a subset of routes multiple times
3 – perhaps also incorporate “removal” methods or related factors
- double/observer & removal may be preferable methodologically
1 – Continue research into sources of bias and potential ways to address them
- ask a subset of volunteers to run routes twice
- ask a subset of volunteers to run route at same time
- paid version – hire people to do this.
1. Select a subset of routes and start to implement some appropriate approaches using (under-) paid crews
• e.g. running routes twice
• “removal” method approaches