Community Farming of Grassland Birds: A Local Conservation Strategy
Grassland bird populations are declining throughout the northeastern United States. Through the stories of individual birds and their young, Noah will work to personalize grassland birds so that the agricultural and landowner community in Vermont will be proud of farming both high-quality products and grassland birds, thereby confronting these declines. The study system presents a rare opportunity in which many birds born on the study fields return to breed within 1500 meters of where they were born. Due to this fidelity, neighboring farms provide habitat for multiple generations of grassland birds, where cousins and siblings nest on neighboring fields. Noah plans to tell this family story to the agricultural and landowner community: where and to whom individuals were born, where they went while they migrated, where they returned, their breeding success, and under what field management conditions. He will do three things. First, with an undergraduate student field crew, he will search for birds originally banded on study fields as nestlings who have returned to neighboring fields and collect demographic data. The crew will enable him to expand the search to a broader landscape, integrating more landowners and land managers. Second, using geolocators, he will track individual birds during their migration. Third, with the students, he will produce a story-map that details the lives of the fields in which the birds were born, where they went, and the success and conditions that they experienced upon return. Finally, Noah and the students will organize a community meeting and tell this story.