Reflections from the 2015 Field Season
Posted on: August 25, 2015
Author: Stephen Brown
As we wrap up and reflect on our season of shorebird science in the arctic, we want to thank all of the extraordinary people who helped make this another successful field season. We had two major expeditions this year, so we have two sets of people to thank, including the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge survey team and the Coats Island Semipalmated Sandpiper geolocator project team. We especially want to thank Liza LePage, who manages the blog posting and brought you all of our stories all season!
(If you haven’t read every post from this season, you can access all of the Yukon posts here and the Coats Island posts here. Once you reach the bottom of each page, you can select to see older posts of each expedition.)
It took a large team of partners to plan and implement one of the largest surveys of its kind in the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge. We are very grateful to the excellent staff at the Refuge, including Brian McCaffery and Kristine Sowl, who advised us all along the way and worked with us both in the office and in the field. The design team, including Jim Lyons, Brad Andres, and Jim Johnson, sorted out the complex habitats of the Refuge and planned the survey plots to be visited.
Sarah Saalfeld and Jim Johnson put in countless hours sorting out preparations and logistics, especially the plot maps that guided all our work. Metta McGarvey worked on everything from budgeting to field logistics to every manner of field support. We couldn’t have done this without her. Our two survey teams worked tirelessly in the field, including Rick Lanctot, Susan Savage, Jim Lyons, and Diane Granfors in the south working out of Bethel, and Brad Winn, Bob Gill, Metta McGarvey, and me working in the north out of St. Mary’s.
Our excellent helicopter pilots from Pollux Aviation (Shannon Glenn) and Hermens Helicopters (Stan Hermens) took us safely across the huge survey area in all weather conditions, and were critical team members. Isaac Bedingfield of God’s Country Aviation delivered fuel to remote locations enabling the Bethel helicopter crew to access far-flung survey sites. River Gates worked with us both on logistics for the trip beforehand, and on data entry when we returned.
The coastal survey boat crew, including Mark Agimuk, Kristine Sowl, Jessica Stocking, Brian Robinson, and Alan Kneidel, worked extremely hard to access some of the most remote plots that had to be visited by boat and fixed-wing aircraft, and made it possible to survey the entire Refuge by adding these inaccessible areas.
Our Coats Island Semipalmated Sandpiper geolocator project was led by Shiloh Schulte. Despite dismal weather, Shiloh and his team were able to tag 29 Semipalmated Sandpipers. This wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the following people.
Paul Smith of Environment Canada provided invaluable guidance during the project. Working with Paul in the field is an outstanding experience – he is extraordinarily capable, always optimistic, and willing to share useful information and advice on any topic, from camp food prep to the practical implications of large scale changes in Arctic weather patterns (more bears in camp!). He made it possible for Shiloh to get into camp easily and focus on the work at hand, instead of the massive amount of logistics and preparation that goes into any Arctic field season.
Shiloh also wants to thank Scott Flemming from Trent University – even though Scott is in the middle of his own PhD research, he did not miss a beat when asked to extend his crew to help with the Semipalmated Sandpiper tagging project. The crew also included Rianne Mariash, Malkolm Boothroyd, and Shawna-Lee Masson, who were a fantastic group of people and a joy to work alongside, with unfailing good humor and rock solid work ethic and nerves. Finally, Ron Porter was extremely helpful in getting the geolocators mounted, calibrated, and ready for the field, and his advice on how to deploy the tags was hugely appreciated.
We will be working through the fall and winter, sorting out all the data from our arctic expeditions and, along with all our partners, working to learn as much as we can about what limits shorebird populations, and how they can be conserved. None of this would have been possible without the generous support of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Environment Canada, and the generous donors to Manomet. One key donor supported most of the matching requirement for our grant from NFWF, and the project simply couldn’t have been done without this key support. Thank you to all our partners and supporters, and we will look forward to everything we can learn together, and to planning next year’s work in the arctic!