By Dr. Doug Tozer, Ontario Program Scientist, Bird Studies Canada
Volunteer Diana Bright Photo: Diane Dobson
In 2018, Bird Studies Canada’s Great Lakes Marsh Monitoring Program (GLMMP) celebrated something remarkable: the completion of nearly a quarter-century of bird, frog, and habitat surveys by hundreds of volunteer Citizen Scientists. These dedicated individuals swarmed marshes throughout the Great Lakes to survey frogs and count elusive bird species like American Bittern (also called a “thunder-pumper,” for its loud calls) and American Coot (“mud-hen,” for its habitat and shape).
Numerous recent accomplishments by the GLMMP are summarized in the latest issue of the program’s newsletter, The Marsh Monitor.
Bird Studies Canada staff work hard to package the GLMMP data you contribute into creative science products, which lead to on-the-ground conservation of wetlands for wildlife and people. Examples of these valuable products include:
- Status and trends of the health of wetland bird and frog communities in the State of the Great Lakes Report, required under the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement
- Assessments of population trends of species at risk, needed to identify threatened species under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA). Least Bittern and Western Chorus Frog were both listed in SARA based, in part, on GLMMP data.
- Science tools used by the Ontario Eastern Habitat Joint Venture, arguably one of the most influential forces achieving on-the-ground wetland conservation for all bird species and other wildlife in the Great Lakes under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.
The recent newsletter also reports the latest population trends for nearly 30 species of marsh birds and frogs, with illustrations showing the fascinating ups and downs over the years and across the decades. The GLMMP is a truly unique treasure trove of information on the populations and habitats of these little-known species.
Although the past year has been laden with exciting accomplishments, we thought it would be revealing to report here on the collective milestones of the program over its entire 24 years. Remarkably, the GLMMP has produced 6 popular reports for the public, which are based on 11 peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts. It has also logged around 37,000 bird surveys and 49,000 frog surveys, with a total of about 382,000 species occurrence records of 314 species. But perhaps most importantly, the GLMMP has engaged over 1500 volunteer Citizen Scientists, who have learned first-hand a great deal about the importance of wetland conservation.
We hope that you are impressed by the impact of the work of our valued GLMMP volunteer Citizen Scientists and their hard-earned data. We hope you will consider going even further, perhaps by doing one or more of the following:
- Donate to Bird Studies Canada
- Participate in our Marsh Monitoring Program or one or more of our many other bird monitoring programs (many thanks if you already do this!);
- Purchase a Canadian Wildlife Habitat Conservation Stamp and support wetland conservation in Canada;
- Participate in Eastern Habitat Joint Venture partner programs (as a volunteer or landowner);
- And of course, please advocate for wetlands. They benefit everyone and everything (especially thunder-pumpers and mud-hens!).
Immediately below is a list of the 6 popular reports for the public and the 11 peer-reviewed scientific manuscripts that have been produced over the years based on GLMMP Citizen Science data.
Popular reports for the public based on GLMMP Citizen Science data:
- The state of marsh birds and frogs: Nottawasaga Valley – Lake Simcoe watershed report 1995-2015 (2016) Bird Studies Canada.
- Finding and protecting Western Chorus Frogs (2014) Bird Studies Canada.
- The Great Lakes Marsh Monitoring Program 1995 – 2012: 18 years of surveying birds and frogs as indicators of ecosystem health (2013) Bird Studies Canada.
- The Marsh Monitoring Program 1995 – 2004: a decade of marsh monitoring in the Great Lakes region (2006) Bird Studies Canada.
- Marsh havens: improving marsh habitats for birds in the Great Lakes basin (2004) Bird Studies Canada.
- The Marsh Monitoring Program 1995 – 1999: monitoring Great Lakes wetlands and their amphibian and bird inhabitants (2000) Bird Studies Canada.
Scientific peer-reviewed manuscripts based on GLMMP citizen science data:
- Multispecies benefits of wetland conservation for marsh birds, frogs, and species at risk (2018) Journal of Environmental Management.
- Influence of call broadcast timing within point counts and survey duration on detection probability of marsh breeding birds (2017) Avian Conservation and Ecology.
- Using citizen science monitoring data in species distribution models to inform isotopic assignment of migratory connectivity in wetland birds (2017) Journal of Avian Biology.
- Marsh bird occupancy dynamics, trends, and conservation in the southern Great Lakes basin: 1996 to 2013 (2016) Journal of Great Lakes Research.
- Modeling detection probability to improve marsh bird surveys in southern Canada and the Great Lakes states (2016) Avian Conservation and Ecology.
- Comparing disturbance gradients and bird-based indices of biotic integrity for ranking the ecological integrity of Great Lakes coastal wetlands (2015) Ecological Indicators.
- Hydrology influences generalist–specialist bird-based indices of biotic integrity in Great Lakes coastal wetlands (2014) Journal of Great Lakes Research.
- Community level response to climate change: shifts in anuran calling phenology (2013) Herpetological Conservation and Biology.
- URBAN: development of a citizen science biomonitoring program based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada (2013) International Journal of Science Education, Part B.
- Associations between breeding marsh bird abundances and Great Lakes hydrology (2008) Journal of Great Lakes Research.
- Assessing the sensitivity of wetland bird communities to hydrologic change in the eastern Great Lakes region (2006) Wetlands.
Bird Studies Canada is appreciative of ongoing or recent support of the GLMMP by Environment and Climate Change Canada, United States Environmental Protection Agency, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Eastern Habitat Joint Venture, Government of Ontario, Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, John and Pat McCutcheon Charitable Foundation, Kenneth M. Molson Foundation, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Wildlife Habitat Canada; and for past support by Brant Waterways Foundation, Great Lakes Commission, Great Lakes Protection Fund, Great Lakes Sustainability Fund, Great Lakes United, National Audubon Society, Ontario Trillium Foundation, and Wetland Habitat Fund.