Point Blue Conservation Science wins TWS Group Achievement Award

By Dana Kobilinsky

Geoff Geupel (left) receives the Group Achievement Award at the 22nd Annual TWS Conference in Winnipeg.

The TWS Group Achievement Award recognizes up to one private or governmental organization each year for outstanding wildlife achievement that is consistent with and/or assists in advancing the objectives of The Wildlife Society. The deadline to nominate organizations for this year’s Group Achievement Award is February 15, 2016. Click here to review the criteria and to learn how to submit a nomination.

Point Blue Conservation Science started as a bird banding station. But today, this nonprofit organization is about much more than just bird ecology.

The organization, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, won the Group Achievement Award at The Wildlife Society’s 22nd Annual Conference in October.

“In our efforts to expand our mission and influence, we started engaging with The Wildlife Society about 20 years ago,” said Geoff Geupel, the Director of Emerging Programs and Partnerships at Point Blue who has worked with the California-based organization for 37 years.

“We realized our long term ornithological studies could be used to effectively guide conservation actions. The key was the use of birds as indicators of healthy ecosystems, habitats and healthy population of other wildlife.”

Biologists training with Point Blue Conservation Science. Image Courtesy: Point Blue Conservation Science

Biologists training with Point Blue Conservation Science. Image Courtesy: Point Blue Conservation Science

Today, 140 staff plus additional volunteers and interns contribute to Point Blue’s vision: “Because of the work we do today, healthy ecosystems will continue to sustain thriving wildlife and human communities in California and beyond, on land and sea for decades to come.”

Geupel said one of the important principles of Point Blue is to focus on future conditions, not the past or historic conditions. “Understanding this big picture and response to change was what impressed us with The Wildlife Society,” Geupel said. “They also were looking at future conditions rather than historical pictures from the past that we can’t return to.”

Founded as the Point Reyes Bird Observatory at the Point Reyes National Seashore, California, Point Blue was mostly focused on banding and studying land birds. They’ve spent 50 years building datasets that track bird populations, which are fundamental to understanding the impacts of climate change. Now, they’ve expanded their work to Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) in Antarctica, Lewis’ woodpeckers (Melanerpes lewis) in the Sierra, endangerd whales off of California’s coast, northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) at the Farallon Islands, and more.

But often, studying the impacts of climate change comes back to birds — especially since they’re so relatively easy to monitor. “During spring time, songbirds say their names 400 to 1,000 times a day,” Geupel said. “You can stand in one place and you can hear dozen of species.” Point Blue has worked collaboratively for decades to standardize field protocols to monitor birds and their habitats accurately, which can help with monitoring the well-being of other species such as fish.

The organization helps lead the Avian Knowledge Network where organizations and individuals — whether amateurs or professionals — can contribute monitoring and other biological data online. “It is not just a data repository but an interactive online decision support system with regional informational nodes that helps managers improve conservation outcomes,” Geupel said. “The Wildlife Society is helping us move in that direction. We’re moving away from [the conservation of] single species to ecosystems and communities in a rapidly changing world.”

Dana KobilinskyDana Kobilinsky is a science writer at The Wildlife Society. Contact her at dkobilinsky@wildlife.org with any questions or comments about her article. You can follow her on Twitter at @DanaKobi.

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