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Puget Sound Seabird Survey and Motus Wildlife Tracking

Puget Sound is the nation’s second largest marine estuary, and covers just over 1,000 square miles. It supports significant wildlife including marine mammals, marine birds and important salmon populations. The Puget Sound Seabird Survey is a community science effort created by Seattle Audubon in 2007 and is currently being transitioned to Puget Sound Bird Observatory (PSBO). The program uses over 250 trained, volunteer field observers to gather data annually on wintering seabird populations in Puget Sound, Strait of Juan de Fuca and waters surrounding the San Juan Islands. Data collected have provided an evolving snapshot of seabird and waterfowl density, a key indicator of health for Puget Sound, on more than 5,400 acres of sheltered and open water and shoreline habitat. It is the only land-based, multi-month seabird survey in the Southern Salish Sea, and it provides essential and dynamic population data for researchers and policy-makers. With shifting climate and marine conditions, long-term datasets such as the PSSS, are vital to gauging environmental health. The first component of this award will help fund the transition of PSSS from Birds Connect Seattle (formerly Seattle Audubon) to PSBO, including engaging former Seattle Audubon Science Director Toby Ross, who oversaw PSSS and brings with him continuity and experiential knowledge of the stakeholder relationships and financial, logistical, and programmatic workings of the project.

The Motus Wildlife Tracking System is an international collaborative network of researchers that use automated radio telemetry to simultaneously track hundreds of individual birds, bats and insects. Motus is based on two components — tiny radio tags and a network of receivers. Motus radio tags are light-weight transmitters that send out pulses every few seconds that are detected by Motus receivers. Receivers are mini-computers hooked to antennas that detect radio signals. The system enables a community of researchers, educators, organizations and citizens to undertake impactful research and education on the ecology and conservation of migratory animals. By tracking bird movement, PSBO researchers, working with other Motus collaborators, can learn more about avian movement, discover where birds go during migration and how long they stay in specific areas. This information helps guide conservation and habitat management decisions. The second component of this award will support the installation and maintenance of two Motus receiver towers which will contribute to the Motus network. Relying on intellectual guidance from the broad Motus community and the regional support of the Pacific Northwest Motus Working Group, PSBO will collaborate with existing land manager partners on site placement and installation of the towers for best results.