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Rehabilitation of Waterbird Nesting Islands

Colony Island Network Design and Implementation (CINDI): a prioritization tool to rehabilitate colony islands along the Texas coast

Every four years, Texas creates a list of high priority colonial waterbird nesting islands in need of rehabilitation and decides which projects to implement. Given limited funds and little understanding of an island’s contribution to regional bird populations, the project team seeks to develop a prioritization tool that incorporates biogeophysical constraints on nesting and economic considerations to help managers prioritize a network of colony islands.

Lead Investigator: Dale E. Gawlik, Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (

Natural Resource Managers: David Newstead, Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program; Shelley Todd, National Park Service; Alexis Baldera, Audubon Texas 

Project Team: Katya Wowk, Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies; James Gibeaut, Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies; Matthew Streich, Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies; Diana Del Angel, Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies

Collaborators: Joshua Oyer, Texas General Land Office 

Technical Monitors: David Hewitt ( and Adriana Leiva (

Federal Program Officer/Point of Contact: Frank Parker (

Award Amount: $2,000,453

Award Period: October 2023 – September 2027

Why it matters: Every four years, the Texas General Land Office updates the Texas Coastal Resiliency Master Plan, which includes a list of high priority colonial waterbird nesting islands in need of rehabilitation. With more than 200 colony islands on the Texas coast, agencies do not have enough funds to manage all of them. Nor do all islands have the same potential to increase regional waterbird populations. 

What the team is doing: The association between colony traits and nesting productivity will be determined by using drones to measure productivity across a range of colony types for five bird species. Movement data from radio-tagged birds will be used to delineate foraging ranges and estimate the probability of habitat use. The prioritization tool, which uses a linear integer programming algorithm implemented in the software package Marxan, will be used to identify a set of colonies that maximize colony persistence, nest survival, and access to foraging habitat. This project will use an iterative co-production process to set conservation targets that define the conservation planning problem solved by the prioritization tool. 

Expected outcome: A prioritization tool will be co-produced and implemented that helps managers identify a network of colony islands where rehabilitation and management are cost effective and the potential for enhancing waterbird populations is high.