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Birds Without Borders

The precipitous declines in Temperate and Neotropical migrant bird populations have lead to an increased public concern. With this concern has sprung awareness of the need for additional research, conservation, and education regarding migrant birds. However, with this increased knowledge has also come a realization that our past practices of unilateral bird conservation efforts, typically confined within the borders of the United States, have been entirely inadequate to preserve and protect migrant bird species. Successful conservation programs in the US might have little or no overall success if the other areas important in the birds annual cycle, such as their wintering homes and migration rest stops are negatively impacted.

A new era of understanding and cooperation has begun as researchers, citizen scientists, and government agencies are realizing that in order to protect and preserve our migrant species, representatives from all geographic areas important in the bird’s range must work in cooperation. To this end, Miami University, in conjunction with AREI, and the Autonomous University of Tamaulipas (AUT) have started a program of cooperation in training students from both Universities of many migrants’ annual journey.

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In 2006 a two-part workshop will spend 6 days in Tamaulipas Mexico and 6 days in Oxford and along Lake Erie in Ohio participating in a joint learning experience about Temperate and Neotropical migrant birds. Bird monitoring techniques, such as banding and point counts, will be conducted at the El Cielo Biosphere Reserve in Tamaulipas and at both the Miami University Bird Observatory in Oxford, Ohio and the Black Swamp Bird Observatory along Lake Erie.

In addition to learning important bird conservation methodologies, eight students from Miami and eight students from AUT will cross cultural and language barriers to learn about “their” birds in their neighbor’s backyard. As important as technical skills are, the ability to learn from and work with others who speak different languages, have different priorities, and see the world differently is paramount if we are to be successful in preserving our natural heritages.

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The specific goal of the workshop is to have pairs of students, one from each school, select a bird from a list of species known to winter in Tamaulipas and nest or pass through Ohio. The students will then work together in Mexico and Ohio in various activities relating to the observation, banding, and conservation of “their” bird. This is truly a unique opportunity for students to see all aspects of a migrant bird’s life. We hope this experience will not only teach the students about bird biology and conservation, but also show the short-term and long-term benefits of international scientific collaboration.

This is the beginning of what we hope is a long-term collaboration between groups equally committed to exploring, protecting, and preserving their shared natural heritage. Collaborative projects are planned for the future to include stable isotope and DNA analysis, along with the establishment of, and training personnel for, migrant bird banding stations.