At WildResearch, our innovative programs are designed to achieve three goals:
- Provide our members with training and education in field ecology and applied conservation sciences;
- Conduct public outreach about the value of natural systems and the power of community conservation initiatives;
- Perform original research on ecology and biodiversity with applications for conservation in British Columbia.
With these goals in mind, we currently operate four core programs:
The Iona Island Bird Observatory (IIBO) monitors populations of migratory birds in an ecologically important park in Richmond, British Columbia. Our spring and fall programs contribute to our understanding of annual and seasonal changes in songbird migration and stopover use along the globally important Pacific Flyway, a major migration route that runs along the coastal Americas. In addition to songbirds, we also regularly organize monitoring programs for shorebirds and raptors, such as Western Sandpiper and Northern Saw-whet Owls, respectively. At IIBO, we provide volunteers with hard-to-obtain skills in safe bird capture, handling, and measurement, and many of our volunteers go on to use their skills to conduct their own research in the fields of ecology and conservation. In addition, hundreds of students from K-12 classes, as well as universities, visit IIBO every year to learn about bird migration and conservation.
The British Columbia Marsh Monitoring Program (BCMMP) launched in 2021 in collaboration with Birds Canada. This program monitors amphibian and bird species breeding in wetlands across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. Volunteers are taught to identify species based on vocalizations, gain experience conducting call-playback surveys, and contribute valuable data on the abundance and distributions of wetland species. We are currently working to expand this program to other parts of the province.
The Western Sandpiper Program ran for two years (2020-2021) in collaboration with Environment and Climate Change Canada. Radio nanotags were deployed on Western Sandpipers as they migrated between Alaska and South America to better understanding their use of stopover habitats in the Fraser River Estuary. Shorebird surveys were also conducted to understand seasonal variation in the overall shorebird community, particularly along the shore of Iona Island Regional Park. While this program has ended, future shorebird opportunities may become available in the near future.
The goal of our Urban Raptor Monitoring Program is to gain data on the relative abundance and breeding success of Cooper’s hawks in the Vancouver/Burnaby area. Participants gain knowledge of raptor ecology and how to conduct proper raptor surveys.
The newly minted Research Committee was formed to integrate and present results from the above programs in a way that is more accessible to the public and conservation scientists. We also aim to initiate new research projects focused on the natural history, ecology, and evolution of migratory bird systems, as well as the conservation of local biodiversity in general. These initiatives will involve collaborations with Canadian academic institutions, NGOs, and government scientists, as well as potential partnerships with international organizations working within the Pacific Flyway.
WildResearch also founded the Canadian Nightjar Survey in 2010. A decade on it has found a new home at Birds Canada. The survey collects data on a group of birds of conservation concern. Nightjars are understudied due to their nocturnal habits, and several species are listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. Under the WildResearch Nightjar Survey, citizen scientists across western Canada conduct nocturnal road-side surveys for Common Nighthawks, Common Poorwills, and Eastern Whip-poor-wills. Data collected by the Nightjar Survey provides a baseline for population monitoring and is used for research on habitat associations and nightjar study methods. By participating, citizen scientists learn how to identify nightjars and conduct bird surveys.
In addition to our programs, we run regular conservation science training and outreach events. Examples include workshops, trivia nights, winter bird identification walks, and public talks from local biologists.