Dr. Cohen and Ph.D. students Michelle Stantial and Alison Kocek recently had the exciting opportunity to teach a one-week workshop on Coastal Waterbird Ecology Concepts and Techniques in Jamnagar, Gujarat State, India. The workshop was hosted by the Gujarat Ecological Education and Research Foundation (GEER), a program of the Gujarat Forest and Environment Department Department. In partnership with the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), we led a series
of lectures and field exercises focused on different aspect of coastal waterbird ecology. Gujarat is on the Arabian Sea along the west coast of India, and has the longest coastline of any state, as well as 28,071 square kilometers of coastal wetlands. As such, it hosts a tremendous diversity of waterbird species, including waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, and seabirds. On the first day of the workshop, we participated in a seminar attended by approximately 100 students, scientists, and members of the public. In addition to a talk by Dr. Cohen on global status and trends in waterbirds, there were speakers from across India that spoke about conservation of wildlife in India, including research programs, citizen science, and Indian law.
The workshop began the next day, with around 60 participants including undegraduate and graduate students from around Gujarat as well as members of the Gujarat Forest Department. Day 1 included lectures by Dr. Cohen and his students on conservation and research of beach-nesting birds, saltmarsh birds, and long-distance migrants, as well as the use of birds as biomonitors, followed by an introduction to statistical models in ecology. That set the stage for the remaining days, which focused
on survival, occupancy, and abundance modeling as well as behavioral and habitat selection studies. Each day also included field demonstrations led by BNHS, Alison, and Michelle. January is the nonbreeding season for waterbirds in India, and capturing birds requires traps set in foraging and roosting areas. We had the privilege of working alongside BNHS biologists as they captured birds with "mesh nets", a technique similar to mist nets, in their post-sunset trapping operations and applied leg bands and
individually-identifiable plastic flags. BNHS will use these flags to get recapture and resighting information from other sites within the Central Asian Flyway, and to thus learn about migratory connectivity of their wintering sites with breeding sites in Europe and Asia. Michelle and Alison demonstrated their capture techniques during daylight hours, including "whoosh nets" (a bungee-propelled projectile net) and drop nets. Leading the workshop was the experience of a lifetime, and ended with the potential for many future collaborations with our new friends and colleagues!