Audubon’s national science team works to deliver conservation-relevant science in partnership with Audubon’s national conservation strategy leadership and with science and conservation staff located in state and regional offices as well as external partners. We aspire to practice translational ecology whenever possible and believe, through our collective experience, that the best science is produced in collaboration with diverse stakeholders. This includes our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion. The science we produce provides a foundation for Audubon’s conservation, advocacy, and engagement work.
Migratory Bird Initiative
The Migratory Bird Initiative (MBI) is a cross-organizational effort that consolidates the latest bird migration science for species that breed and winter in the Western Hemisphere and applies them in innovative ways to support Audubon’s on-the-ground conservation, advocacy and engagement work. Through a co-development process, Science, Technology, Marketing, Content and Communications work with Audubon’s conservation strategies, state and regional field offices, centers and sanctuaries, and chapter network to create tools and information needed to secure the future of migratory birds in the Western Hemisphere. MBI’s work falls into three different categories: (1) the Bird Migration Explorer – a digital engagement platform of science-based interactive mapping tools and content, (2) conservation applications, and (3) engaging the Audubon network of Centers, Sanctuaries, Chapters and Campus Chapters. Example conservation applications include: quantifying the use of priority landscapes for migrating birds, integrating data to map migration pathways, and creating full annual cycle prioritizations to highlight regions of hemispheric importance for migratory birds across the Americas. The MBI team consists of Jill Deppe (lead), Melanie Smith, Lotem Taylor, Erika Knight, Chad Witko, Nat Seavy, William DeLuca, and Nicolas Gonzalez.
The Climate Science Team works to develop conservation-relevant science products on topics related to global change and climate change. We conduct climate research to support policy efforts such as America the Beautiful, understanding past and projecting future responses of birds to climate change, and prioritization for Natural Climate Solutions in the US. Recent products developed by the Climate Science Team include Survival by Degrees: 389 Species on the Brink and the Natural Climate Solutions Report: Maintaining and Restoring Natural Habitats to Help Mitigate Climate Change. The team collaborates with stakeholders from state offices and government agencies to deliver research products that localize the effects of climate change on birds and the places they need. We are also working to incorporate environmental equity for human communities into our science and mapping how this aligns with conservation areas integral for climate adaptation and mitigation efforts. Current team members include Brooke Bateman (lead), Shannon Reault, Lotem Taylor, Sarah Saunders, Joanna Grand, and Geoff LeBaron.
Community Science is central to Audubon’s legacy and identity and the involvement of community scientists is fundamental to Audubon’s work to improve the lives of birds. The cornerstone is the Christmas Bird Count (CBC), begun in 1900, making it the longest-running community science program about birds, on which Audubon partners with Birds Canada. Our climate work includes Climate Watch, a program to track the near-real-time response of 12 species to a changing climate. Audubon also collaborates with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Birds Canada on The Great Backyard Bird Count, a global program for all who love birds. As a founding partner with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology on eBird, Audubon continues to be a leader in the community science field.
Bird data reported by community scientists have been used by researchers since the 1930s to report on the health of bird populations, and Audubon’s scientists have used those data in creating innovative analytical methods that include our CBC population status and trends and learning how birds are responding to a changing climate. Current team members include Kathy Dale (lead), Geoff LeBaron, Brooke Bateman, Sarah Saunders, and Tim Meehan.
Quantitative Metrics and Monitoring
The Quantitative Metrics and Monitoring Team develops and applies the latest quantitative analyses to prioritize and measure the impact of Audubon’s conservation work. The team produces the robust modeling efforts needed to understand trends and spatial patterns in bird abundance, occupancy, and occurrence; delineates climate and habitat relationships; and evaluates population- and community-level responses to conservation and management actions. We work closely with all the other national science teams to develop analytical frameworks for analyses of community science data and migration data integration, for example. The quantitative team also recently developed two metrics to evaluate the impacts of Audubon’s conservation actions: the Bird-Friendliness Index to evaluate grassland bird community response to Conservation Ranching, and a trend-based index to evaluate the impacts of coastal stewardship on coastal breeding and wintering birds. We also characterized trends in Audubon priority species and related conservation activities in the Priority Birds Report. Current team members include Nicole Michel (lead), Tim Meehan, Sarah Saunders, and Jennifer Fuller.
Spatial Conservation Planning
The Spatial Conservation Planning Team provides spatial modeling, geospatial analysis, data management, and mapping services to the Audubon network. The team’s main areas of focus are strategic conservation and restoration planning, landcover-change analysis, home range estimation, animal movement modeling, and tracking conservation progress. Some examples of our work include coastal conservation blueprints co-developed with state offices, conservation strategy scorecards co-developed with national strategy leads, and identification of important migratory stopover locations and climate strongholds in collaboration with the Migratory Bird Initiative and the climate team. The spatial team also manages the Important Bird Areas program. Current team members include Joanna Grand (lead), Lotem Taylor, Erika Knight, and Carrie Gray.
Our Commitment to Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging
Western science, as a discipline, has a long history of marginalizing those who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), profiting from colonialism, contributing to discrimination, rewarding patriarchal structures, and promoting white supremacy culture. A lack of representation, blatant inequities, and burdens placed on minority scientists to fix diversity and inclusion issues are the norm within the scientific community. Many of us on the national science team have arrived at where we are today because we were privileged by our race, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, or other identities aligned with dominant culture.
Acknowledging these truths, Audubon is working to create a professional culture that is equitable and inclusive, recognizes the value of diverse backgrounds and viewpoints, celebrates and embraces our differences, and fosters belonging within our organization and the broader scientific community. We will consider the impacts, both intentional and unintentional, of our science on communities of marginalized identities, investigate white supremacy in science, welcome difficult conversations, and evolve to consider the human dimensions of conservation in our work. In doing so, we will work to ensure that our conservation efforts benefit both birds and people.
Audubon National Science Team
Vice President and Chief Scientist
Director, Climate Science, National Audubon Society
Director, Science Technology
Senior Manager, Migration Ecology
Senior Director, Migratory Bird Initiative
Senior Coordinator, Climate Science
Director, Spatial Conservation Planning
Boreal Conservation Specialist
GIS and Data Science Specialist
Director, Christmas Bird Count
Senior Manager, Quantitative Science
Director, Quantitative Science
Senior Associate, Climate Science
Senior Manager, Quantitative Science
Director of Migration Science, Migratory Bird Initiative, National Audubon Society
Melanie A. Smith
Program Director, Bird Migration Explorer
GIS and Data Science Specialist
Senior Coordinator, Avian Biology