Shorebird Research Group of the Americas


Shorebird Research Group of the Americas


Terms of Reference

Shorebird Research Group of the Americas Terms of Reference


February 2006




Implementation of conservation actions is increasingly being planned and conducted at larger, landscape levels for much of the world’s biodiversity.  Examples of this include the North American Bird Conservation Initiative and the initiative for the conservation of migratory species that was initiated by the Summit of the Americas.  These initiatives promote conservation throughout the ranges of the species involved through international cooperation and by building on existing efforts.


Shorebirds stand to benefit greatly from this model because of the vast distances many species migrate during their annual cycle.  Communication and collaboration among researchers from all countries of the Americas will greatly increase the efficiency with which research is conducted and will increase the likelihood that conservation efforts will be based on the best available information.  To that end, the Shorebird Research Group of the Americas is designed to bring shorebird researchers together to increase our knowledge of shorebirds in the Americas and ensure that information is available for conservation purposes.


The Shorebird Research Group of the Americas


SRGA Goal: that important information gaps for shorebirds are identified and acted on, that research into shorebird biology not be constrained or hindered by a researcher’s inability to communicate with others, and that conservation efforts for shorebirds and their habitat are implemented using a biological information base that is not compromised by any knowledge deficit.


The SRGA comprises researchers from institutions including universities, governments, and conservation groups interested in advancing shorebird research in the Americas.  One of it’s principle activities will be to encourage research into all aspects of shorebird biology with a special aim to provide pertinent guidance for conservation activities.  Collaboration and partnership will be cornerstone principles of this group.


Supporting research is the primary aim of this group: however, the SRGA recognizes the importance of keeping strong connections to the conservation community to ensure new information is put into practice where practical.  SRGA will thus be connected to other shorebird conservation efforts in order to gain positive conservation benefits derived from that communication.  Managing bodies for national shorebird conservation plans, the Program for Regional and International Shorebird Monitoring (PRISM), and the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN) are obvious candidates for inter-program communication but others will certainly be included.


Recognizing that other biodiversity conservation efforts can contribute to shorebird information and research, SRGA will operate as a participant and voice for shorebird science in this broader arena.  SRGA will therefore ensure connections with initiatives such as the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, the developing initiative for migratory species in the Western Hemisphere, Waterbirds for the Americas, the Ramsar Convention, the Convention on Migratory Species and Important Bird Areas program so that SRGA science will benefit from the actions of those working on other species or in other habitats.  In addition, this will ensure that SRGA science is communicated to all who might benefit from shorebird focused science.


The concept for SRGA began with research needs identified in shorebird conservation plans in the US and Canada; however, both recognized that it is essential that the group have a broader, hemispheric participation if it is to be effective.  This broad geographical representation and function will define the SRGA yet, at the same time, it will still provide the research consultation functions of the before-mentioned national shorebird plans and may be adopted as a center of shorebird research expertise by other initiatives as they develop. 


In effect, the SRGA provides a mechanism to act on national shorebird research concerns as identified through national plan councils.  In this structure, the conservation plans participate in the program but do not have direct control over its development.  That is reserved for the hemispheric research community to determine as is outlined in the program structure described below.





SRGA recognizes that addressing many of the most important shorebird research questions will benefit from a broad base of participants be they government or non-government or from any region in the Americas.  Adhering to this principle, SRGA membership is open to all with an interest in improving our knowledge of shorebirds



SRGA Committee


The SRGA Committee is the body responsible for overseeing the development of SRGA and setting strategies towards meeting SRGA goals. This includes facilitating SRGA activities such as communications structures for members.


Composition:  The SRGA Committee will be made up of six individuals and a chair elected by SRGA members.  All Committee members will serve two year terms with the possibility for re-election.  Wide international representation is essential for the functioning of this committee so it will be structured with specific committee members that are identified to represent different regions in the Americas.  Regions included are Canada, the United States, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, Northern South America and the Southern Cone.  The SRGA Committee will appoint a chairperson for a term of two years with the possibility for renewal.  Other sub-committees will be formed by the Committee when required.


Decision-making: The SRGA Committee will strive to obtain consensus on all issues, and to work cooperatively to advance shorebird research and conservation.  When consensus is not possible, the SRGA Council will follow Roberts Rules to make decisions.


Meetings: The Committee will conduct most business through email and teleconferences, and will call regular meetings at a frequency to be determined by Committee members.  The SRGA Committee will arrange for periodic scientific and business meetings for all members based on need and utility as identified by the membership.



Shorebird Research Group of the Americas Committee Functions and Responsibilities:


a)  Ensure conditions exist for communication and cooperation among shorebird researchers in all parts of the Western Hemisphere.  This will partly be done through maintenance of a web site, an on-line database, and a listserver of shorebird research in the Americas.


b)  Advise national shorebird conservation plans, NABCI partners in North America, or similar groups or individuals in each country that are carrying out shorebird conservation, on needs and results from shorebird research.


c)  Periodically review current projects underway and identify gaps that are not addressed, recommend actions, and seek funding as appropriate.


d)  Endorse shorebird research projects which contribute significantly towards meeting the SRGA goal.  These projects will be submitted to the Committee by project leaders and those that are endorsed will be identified on the SRGA web site.


e) Represent shorebird research interests on management boards for major conservation initiatives such as national shorebird conservation plans.


f)  Determine the need for and organize periodic meetings of the SRGA Committee and the SRGA membership.


g) Promote and foster direct linkages to other shorebird/waterbird/wetland initiatives to collect information that might assist in setting shorebird research priorities and to communicate shorebird results that may identify or clarify priority wetland conservation actions.


h) Where needed, establish Sub-committees to address major issues that are expected to require significant amounts of Committee time.  These are to be identified by the Committee and may include topics such as funding or inter-initiative communications.


SRGA Projects – finding the answers


The motivation for research of any kind can come from a number of sources.  In some cases it will come from independent researchers and for these individuals, the development of SRGA is intended to provide them with an arena to connect with others if their research could benefit from a broader team approach.  Alternatively, the combined experience of the SRGA Committee may identify a research gap that is not currently being addressed and may decide as a group to assemble a team to address those questions.


SRGA will encourage project teams to be inclusive, and understands that they will operate in a largely autonomous fashion focusing on their specific questions and report progress to the SRGA Committee if only to ensure that new information for shorebird conservation is communicated. 



As an Example – A Cooperative Approach to Determining the Causes of Shorebird Population Decline


Recent analyses of shorebird census data in North America indicate widespread and ongoing declining trends for shorebirds, comparable to declines being observed in other major flyways around the world.  However, the data do not provide information about potential causes for the declines.  Possible causes for ongoing declines include climate change, habitat loss in the breeding or wintering ranges, contaminants, reduced quality or loss of critical stopover locations, recovering predator populations, human disturbance, or some combination of these factors.  Because many of these factors could be remedied by conservation action, it is essential to determine which factors limit shorebird populations for particular species experiencing declines. 


Conservation action can be effective at restoring populations only if it addresses the factors actually limiting populations.  For shorebirds, the research initiated to determine limiting factors must take into consideration the large ranges of species and thereby include projects on a hemispheric scale to reflect this.


The Shorebird Limiting Factors Project will encourage teams to form to explore the causes of declining shorebird populations.  Questions will be addressed through a series of species groups, each looking at the same set of potential hypotheses.  Several working groups have been established, and additional groups are being formed.  These groups will operate in an autonomous fashion linking to one another through their respective leads to a project team leader who will, in turn, report progress to the SRGA Committee for communication purposes.