Upper Mississippi River and Great Lakes Region Joint Venture
Science Team Meeting Minutes - December 2010
A Joint Venture Science Team meeting was held the afternoon of 15 December and
morning of 16 December at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Minneapolis, MN. The Science
Team consists of our JV Technical Committee, plus additional bird conservation experts
who serve on four ad hoc bird-group subcommittees. These notes include coverage of the
Science Team sessions and a separate gathering of the Technical Committee to discuss
JV flex-fund grant applications.
Technical Committee members: Present - John Coluccy (DU), Dave Ewert (TNC),
Bob Gates (OSU), Ron Gatti (WI DNR), Dave Luukkonen (MI DNR), Doreen Mengel
(MO DOC), Mark Nelson (USFS), Greg Soulliere (FWS-JV), and Wayne Thogmartin
(USGS); absent - Dan Holm (IL DNR)
Ad hoc Bird-group Subcommittee members: Present - James Cole (TNC), Tom
Cooper (FWS-MB), Andy Forbes (FWS-JV), Katie Koch (FWS-MB), Steve Lewis
(FWS-MB), Brad Potter (FWS-JV), Charlotte Roy (MN DNR), Bob Russell (FWS-MB),
Tom Will (FWS-MB); absent - Mike Eichholz (SIU), Melinda Knutson (FWS-Refuges),
Mike Monfils (MI NFI), Megan Seymour (FWS-ES), John Simpson (WPMC), and Josh
Guests: Barb Pardo (FWS –JV) and Pat Ruble (WMI)
15 December, 1:30 – 5:00 PM JV Science Team
We began our meeting with introductions, including new Technical Committee member
Doreen Mengel, who replaced Mike Roell, and new bird-group committee members
James Cole (Shorebirds) and Andy Forbes (Landbirds). New member John Simpson
(Waterfowl) was unable to attend the meeting. Updates were then provided for four
evaluation projects supported by the JV to help fill information needs identified while
developing the 2007 JV Implementation Plan.
Evaluation Project Updates
Vital rates of ring-necked ducks in the boreal Great Lakes (Charlotte Roy) - Although
this species appears to be declining in MN, the continental population is trending upward.
Sample sizes for the project were limited due to field logistics and the project was
extended one year; results are now comparable to past ring-neck duck studies. Breeding
females were trapped and radio-marked, mostly late in incubation. Nesting data were
recorded and hen / brood survival monitored; behavior related to markers (marked vs.
control birds) was also monitored. Nest characteristics (clutch size, hatching and nest
success) and hen survival were similar to earlier MN studies. Hens “picked at” external
transmitters and implanted transmitters were subject to greater loss by 55 days. Overall,
however, implanted transmitters were judged a better technique than bib-mounted for
ring-necked ducks, as females with implants had much lower mortality during the study.
Great Lakes Colonial Waterbird Survey (Steve Lewis) - The forth decadal Great Lakes
colonial waterbird survey was completed in 2009, with concomitant surveys in the U.S.
and Canada. Principle investigators and survey cooperators found about one million
birds at 300 sites on the U.S. portion over the three year project period. Although the
primary objective was determining abundance, distribution, colony size, and habitat use
for 14 species, the project also included developing a sample protocol for a smaller more
frequent survey of several species; use of air photos was tested as a more efficient
inventory tool. Increasing from the last survey period were American White Pelican,
Double-crested Cormorant, Ring-billed Gull, Common Tern (U.S. waters only), and
Great Egret. Herring Gull and Caspian Tern populations were stable. Great Blue Heron
numbers had declined around the Great lakes, but some speculate inland populations
appear stable. Black Crowned Night-Heron, Black Tern, and Forester’s Tern populations
appear to be declining, but these species are difficult to inventory with current survey
protocol. Investigators identified core sites (48) which could be monitored more
frequently to better assess colonial waterbird trends using shorter inventory intervals.
Evaluating landbird migration and stopover locations (Wayne Thogmartin) - Although
Wayne was not part of this project, he was kind enough to present results for principle
investigator Pat Hegland. Multiple technologies were used to evaluate landbird migration
stopover locations along the upper Mississippi River, one of the largest spans of forest
landbird migration habitat in the region. Results from transect surveys plus mist netting
and banding analysis (following MAPS protocol) were compared in upland and
floodplain locations. Transects revealed a similar number and density of species in
uplands vs. lowlands, but species composition was distinct. Banding operations captured
more species and more birds per net-hour in floodplain than in upland. Plasma
metabolites were used to measure habitat quality but these data have not yet been
analyzed. Mist netting was considered a success for species occurring in the understory,
and Nexrad was considered useful to understand migration characteristics of Neotropical
species but it was not useful for short distance migrants. Peak migration for Neotropical
migrants was 1-14 May, and short-distance species moved through the area earlier.
Diving duck distribution and abundance (Dave Luukkonen) - The goal of this project is
to model factors influencing the abundance and distribution of diving ducks at key
staging areas in southern Michigan. Investigators applied distance sampling techniques
during population surveys of staging diving ducks this fall. The first two survey efforts
resulted in refinement in distance categories. Nocturnal sampling was added to the
project after initial work revealed high levels of human activity (e.g., fishing and
recreational boating) in potential primary staging areas may influence diurnal survey
results. Night surveys from helicopter used infrared video.
JV Management Board meeting review and outcome (Barb Pardo)
The summer JV Board meeting focused on challenges and obstacles to fulfilling the 2007
JV All-bird Implementation Plan. Some of the high points of this review included 1)
members agree (buy-in to) the concept of regional cooperation in migratory bird
conservation, 2) JV plan content is useful as a regional guide but more association with
State Wildlife Action Plans is needed, 3) some states have personnel in place to
implement JV and related plans, but 4) personnel and budget constraints are serious
impediments to implementation by most state agency partners. The JV Board survey and
discussion this summer was part of a planned evaluation of JV plan usefulness. The JV
Science Team spent 2+ years developing the plan, JV staff spent 2 years marketing the
plan, and now staff and Board are evaluating implementation in an effort to increase
efficiencies as we consider the next plan iteration.
Midwest Coordinated Bird Monitoring (Katie Koch and Bob Russell)
Hard copies of the recently completed Framework for the Midwest CBM Partnership:
2010-2012 were distributed and the document was reviewed; it provides a record of
Midwest CBM accomplishments plus objectives for the next two years. The Midwest
CBM website and related links (“one-stop shop” for monitoring in Midwest) were also
described, and an August CBM-themed workshop is being planned. This gathering could
occur in the Chicago area, and there will be opportunity for associated (add-on) meetings
such as JV bird-group committee gatherings. Katie briefly reviewed the Integrated
Waterbird Management and Monitoring program (http://iwmmprogram.ning.com), which
is an Atlantic and Mississippi Flyway waterbird (waterfowl, shorebird, and colonial
waterbirds) monitoring and adaptive management effort – “the largest strategic bird
habitat program in the country,” according to some.
Concern over wind energy development and disease has resulted in several off-shore
areal surveys of pelagic birds on Lakes Michigan, Erie, and Huron. The state of Ohio has
been surveying Lake Erie in spring, fall, and winter, for two years. USGS has been
conducting surveys of eastern Lake Michigan during the same periods and the contact is
Kevin Kenow (La Crosse, WI). Pelagic birds have been widely distributed on Lake Erie
vs. more clustered on Lake Michigan.
National / regional bird science meetings (Greg Soulliere, Andy Forbes, John Coluccy)
The NAWMP Science Support Team (NSST) met in October and the group’s process for
developing a 5-year work plan was reviewed. A parallel group of non-waterfowl experts
also met following the NSST meeting to discuss development of a technical advisory
team for landbirds, shorebirds, and waterbirds. Beyond group organization and value,
this collection of scientists also discussed and later refined a document describing
challenges and considerations for developing regional bird population abundance
objectives. Finally, our JV Waterfowl Committee and invited guests held a workshop in
late October in southeast MI. Highlights of this meeting were refinement of JV
waterfowl research and monitoring priorities, plus information sharing across JV regions.
Forest Bird Conservation Model (Brad Potter)
The EPA approached JV Science Office staff regarding help with bird-habitat modeling
information and expertise. They provided funding for a 3-month short-term position to
complete a literature review of breeding forest bird biology, ecology, and management.
Professional literature search protocol was used and criteria established to gather key
forest bird information, with 90 abstracts ranking high value for project purposes. These
papers were read in their entirety and re-ranked for value to the project, particularly
regarding parameters influencing productivity (productivity function).
Awards (Barb Pardo and Greg Soulliere)
Bird-group Committee Chairs Dave Ewert (Landbirds), Bob Gates (Shorebirds), John
Coluccy (Waterfowl), and Dan Holm (Waterbirds) were presented engraved plaques with
wording that recognized their five years of service chairing the four JV Science Team
bird-group committees. Dan was not in attendance, but Greg later mailed him the award
with an accompanying thank you letter.
16 December, 8:00 – 10:00 PM JV Science Team
Bird-group committees met for 90 minutes this morning to share information and discuss
2011 work plans. Chairs provided the following reports.
Waterfowl Committee – John Coluccy and Greg Soulliere will remain co-chairs. John
Simpson (Winous Point Marsh Conservancy) and Bob Gates (past Shorebird Committee
Chair) will also begin serving on the waterfowl group. Doreen Mengel, a new member of
the JV Technical Committee, mentioned she and fellow Missouri DOC biologist Andy
Raedeke may be able to split duty on the waterfowl team, helping to represent the south
portion of JV region. The group discussed a planned 2011 NAWMP Committee
assessment of our JV’s performance. We need to revisit results (review comments) of
our last assessment to frame presentations. JV assessments are now completed every
three years, and July is the planned review date for our JV.
Action item: By 1 February, Greg will investigate format for presentation to
NAWMP Committee and share with JV waterfowl committee members who have
offered to assist with assessment preparation.
Discussion of the Integrated Waterbird Management and Monitoring project lead to the
question, “exactly what problems are they trying to solve.” The group also identified a
recent surge in non-breeding waterfowl inventory work, particularly diving duck and sea
duck surveys around the Great Lakes. We discussed the potential for a workshop
spotlighting non-breeding waterfowl monitoring. A primary focus might be refinement
and standardization of the Mid-winter and Coordinated Canvasback surveys and
information sharing for the various other non-breeding waterbird / waterfowl surveys
recently initiated to inform disease and wind energy issues. A one-day waterfowl
meeting could be added to the upcoming August monitoring workshop.
Action item: By 1 February, Charlotte and Greg will investigate and inventory non-
breeding period waterfowl surveys being conducted in the JV region, perhaps with
help from Katie and Melinda Knutson. This inventory should include answers to
explicit questions regarding who, where, when, how, and why each survey is being
Action item: By 1 March, Greg will provide dates for the Chicago-area monitoring
meeting (via Katie) and solicit additional feedback regarding developing a one-day
waterfowl workshop associated with the August gathering.
Landbird Committee – Tom Will agree to serve with Dave Ewert as landbird committee
co-chairs and the group identified need of additional expertise. The upcoming August
monitoring workshop was discussed, and steps were identified to prepare for this
meeting: Host a 1-2 day landbird committee retreat in late April or early May to 1)
critically review monitoring/research priorities and progress made toward accomplishing
these priorities; 2) re-examine linkages between current JV evaluation priorities and the
existing list of JV focal species (or potentially revised list) and define the most important
projects needed for landbirds in the region; and 3) prepare a draft revision of monitoring
and research priorities in preparation for review by others at the August workshop (focus
will be on the top priorities initially).
Action item: By 1 February, Tom Will will contact Mike Ward (INHS) and Andy
Paulios (WiDNR) to their willingness to serve on the JV landbird working group.
Action item: By 1 February, Tom Will and Dave Ewert will recommend dates and
provide initial logistics for the committee retreat tentatively planned for west MI.
Future committee plans include outlining “south of the border” activities, and
activities with other JV regions biologically linked to our region. These projects would
further comprehensive conservation programs needed for JV priority species such as
Golden-winged Warbler and Kirtland’s Warbler. The committee also importance of JV
plans meshing with State Wildlife Action Plans. To accomplish this, we need to assess
how each state has adopted (or not) JV landbird priorities. A specific means to
accomplish this task was not identified but one possibility might be via an interested
student who can work with a JV committee member. There is a need to compile recent
and current research and monitoring programs for focal species or landscapes in the JV
region to deter redundancy. Input from outside the JV Science Team might come from
the Midwest Bird List Serve or Ornithological Newsletter. Finally, the Northern Forest
Project was outlined by Mark Nelson as this work can complement other ongoing
landbird conservation efforts. The project is scheduled to be completed by mid-2012.
Action item: By 1 March, Wayne Thogmartin will prepare a draft revised list of
landbird research and monitoring priorities and send it to Brad Potter to cross-
reference with priorities of the State Action Wildlife Plans.
Action item: By 1 April, each landbird committee member will compile a list of
ongoing research and monitoring projects focused on priority species in preparation
for the spring retreat.
Shorebird Committee – Tom Cooper and Bob Russell agreed to co-chair the shorebird
committee; Bob Gates will serve primarily on the waterfowl group but remain a member
of the shorebird committee. The committee discussed a refuge related project, examining
shorebird response to water-level management. The group also identified a need to work
with the international shorebird survey group to better represent the Great Lakes region –
phenology, distribution, and other priority focus, especially sand shorebirds – and to
conduct a meta-analysis of ISS data for extent, utility, etc.
Action item: By 1 March, Katie Koch will compile available shorebird survey work
being completed across the region and provide to the shorebird committee, who will
discuss means to better share information with partners conducting shorebird
management and monitoring.
Action item: By 1 March, Tom Cooper will follow-up on multi-refuge shorebird
monitoring project and establish a connection with the NWRS I & M Program.
Action item: By 1 March, James Cole will develop a draft description of what we
would want from an improved, coordinated ISS-type survey for shorebirds within
the JV region.
Waterbird Committee – Steve Lewis agreed to co-chair this committee with existing
chair Dan Holm, and Doreen Mengel offered to be a member as well as serve on the
waterfowl group. The committee briefly reviewed the recently completed UMV/GL
Waterbird Plan and its listed monitoring priorities. They discussed redesign of Great
Lakes Colonial Waterbird Survey, with more frequent inventory of core areas to improve
trend analysis. New initiatives for non-breeding pelagic bird and marsh bird monitoring
in the region were discussed. The Integrated Waterbird Management and Monitoring
project needs to be better understood and the group will do this before the upcoming
August monitoring workshop. They discussed the need for better targeted surveys for
marsh wading birds and terns. A need was expressed for reexamination of regional
population objectives for waterbirds, information required for refining the JV Waterbird
Habitat Conservation Strategy.
Action item: By 1 February, Katie Koch will contact the Waterbird Management
and Monitoring initiative group to inform of JV needs and provide feedback to JV
Action item: By 1 March, Katie Koch will compile available colonial waterbird
survey work being completed across the region (outside of the Great Lakes) and
provide to the waterbird committee, who will discuss means to better share
information with partners conducting waterbird management and monitoring
Following reports by committee chairs and associated Science Team discussion, the
Science Team meeting was adjourned at 10:00 a.m.
16 December, 10:15 – 12:15 PM JV Technical Committee
JV Technical Committee / Grant Proposal Review Meeting
The JV Coordination Office received 13 flex-fund grant applications meeting criteria
listed in the FY 2011 request for proposals (RFP). On 23 November 2010 Greg Soulliere
provided Technical Committee (TC) members the following: 1) hard copies of each flex-
fund grant application, 2) a spreadsheet listing the titles, cost, and duration of each
project, and 3) a copy of the 2011 flex-fund RFP. TC members were asked to refer to the
RFP for application criteria then score each proposal high (1), medium (2), or low (3) for
“Technical” (i.e., is proposal scientifically sound) and "Topic Value" (i.e., importance to
overall JV goals). TC members were also sent an electronic copy of the spreadsheet and
asked to fill-in their project scores and return the spreadsheet to Greg by 9 December.
Individual scores received from all 10 members were pooled to generate mean
“technical” and “topic value” scores for each project, and these values were then used to
develop an initial project ranking to begin our discussion. Barb Pardo informed meeting
participants (9 of 10 TC members were in attendance) of JV budget uncertainty for 2011.
After extensive discussion, the TC identified five projects recommended for JV financial
support (see attached spreadsheet).
Two projects (Body Mass of Migrating Shorebirds – OH; Marsh Bird Monitoring – MO),
ranking 1st and 3rd following TC discussion, were considered valuable and technically
sound and required little additional dialog. Discussion highlights regarding the other
three higher ranking proposals included: 1) Evaluating Wisconsin Strategic Grassland
Bird Conservation Plan (ranked 2nd) requires technical refinement and associated
recommendations to the principle investigator (PI) – Greg will work with Katie Koch and
Steve Lewis to complete; 2) Diet of Spring Migrating Black Ducks (ranked 4th) is a
relatively expensive proposal and one that might be cost-shared with the Black Duck
Joint Venture – Greg will investigate this possibility with BD JV staff; and 3) the Ohio
Breeding Bird Atlas proposal (ranked 5th), which was also submitted to the Region 3
Migratory Bird Program – Greg will work with Barb Pardo and Steve Lewis regarding
support of this project.
Action item: By 7 January, Greg will communicate with identified Science Team
members and BDJV staff for further review of these three proposals. Comments
will be pooled and feedback provided to proposal authors by 21 January. Barb
Pardo will be informed regarding adjustments to proposals and/or project cost
share opportunity based on this effort.
Other TC discussion regarding lower ranking proposals centered on 1) the Geo-locators
to Inform Waterfowl Planning proposal, a potentially valuable but expensive “pilot”
project, and with accounting errors in the budget – Mark, John, and Dave L. will work
with Greg to provide PI feedback regarding adjustments to make the proposal more
competitive for JV funding; 2) Assessment of Migratory Landbird Stopover Habitat
requires technical refinement and budget clarification, plus recommendation to PI for
better aligning research design with proposal objectives – Greg, Wayne, and Dave E. will
complete; 3) the 20 years of National Forest Bird Monitoring proposal was considered
high value by some members, but the proposal lacked clarity – Mark, Wayne, Dave E.
and Greg will provide applicant feedback on the proposal; 4) the Red-headed
Woodpecker Habitat Selection proposal was considered technically very sound but of
limited value to the JV considering its local scale and other available literature for this
species; and 5) the Northwest Wisconsin Wetland Reserve Program Support proposal had
mixed but relatively low support by TC members, as it lacked an evaluation component
and the proposed conservation objectives were not linked to bird habitat targets in the
2007 JV Implementation Plan.
Action item: By 10 January, Greg will communicate with identified Technical
Committee members regarding the first three proposals. Review comments will be
pooled and feedback provided to proposal authors by 28 January.
The estimated total JV cost for the five new projects ranked highest in value and favored
during the TC meeting discussion is $123,780 (without potential Black Duck JV cost
share). On-going JV supported projects have a cost of $88,447 for a total 2011 JV cost of
$212,227. This information will be submitted to Barb Pardo who will collaborate with
coordinators of other funding sources (e.g., FWS Migratory Bird Fund) to support as
many projects as feasible during the coming year.
The JV Technical Committee meeting was adjourned at 12:15 PM.