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Optimizing Coastal Bird Stewardship

Evaluating efficacy of stewardship actions for vulnerable Gulf of Mexico coastal birds through co-production between scientists and resource managers

Since 1970, coastal-breeding bird populations have declined significantly due to anthropogenic and environmental threats, such as human disturbance. The project team will develop science-based guidance on stewardship and outreach techniques for the Gulf of Mexico, which will help resource managers reduce threats from human disturbance to coastal-breeding bird populations.

Least tern adult and chick.
Least tern adult and chick. Photo credit: Melissa Groo / Audubon Photography Awards

Lead Investigator: Nicole Michel, National Audubon Society (

Natural Resource Managers: Fallan Batchelor, City of Orange Beach, AL; Abby Darrah, Audubon Delta, MS; Lianne Koczur, Alabama Audubon; Amanda Phillips, Edward Wisner Donation Trust

Project Team: Fallan Batchelor, City of Orange Beach, AL; Abby Darrah, Audubon Delta, MS; Lianne Koczur, Alabama Audubon; Amanda Phillips, Edward Wisner Donation Trust, Evan Adams, Biodiversity Research Institute; Auriel Fournier, University of Illinois; Caz Taylor, Tulane University; Jacquelyn Grace, Texas A&M University; Terri Maness, Louisiana Tech University; Ashley A. Dayer, Virginia Tech; T.J. Zenzal, U.S. Geological Survey    

Collaborators: Alexis Baldera, National Audubon Society; Melanie Driscoll, independent contractor; Kara Fox, National Audubon Society; Bethany Kraft, National Audubon Society; Jeffrey Gleason, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Tim Meehan, National Audubon Society; Sarah Saunders, National Audubon Society; Mary Ann Ottinger, University of Houston; Jennifer Fuller, National Audubon Society

Technical Monitors: David Hewitt ( and Debra Reynolds (

Federal Program Officer/Point of Contact: Frank Parker (

Award Amount: $2,053,930

Award Period: October 2023 – September 2028

Why it matters: Natural resource managers in the Gulf of Mexico are responsible for designing and implementing stewardship programs to protect coastal breeding birds from human disturbance. This project will reduce uncertainties by synthesizing knowledge and assessing the efficacy of current management, education, and outreach practices, which will be used to inform future decision making through an adaptive process.

What the team is doing: They will conduct field surveys, bird health assessments, and community-based social marketing campaigns. These will be used to estimate the relationships between stewardship techniques and both bird and human responses, which will serve as inputs to Bayesian Belief Network (BBN) models to predict how specific stewardship actions will influence population-level outcomes of interest, such as bird nest success.

Expected outcome: The team will translate BBN results into an interactive Decision Support Tool to improve financial and logistical resource allocation among the coastal bird monitoring community in the Gulf of Mexico. This will allow managers to simulate and identify optimal stewardship resource allocation options based on variables evaluated in this study.