Guidance Documents & Tools

A Field Guide to Southeast Bird Monitoring Protocols and Programs (2012)This guide is targeted at researchers, land managers, and biologists in the southeast bird conservation community and beyond. The main objective of the guide is to serve as a starting point when considering a monitoring program by summarizing many of the protocols that are available. It is not intended to be a detailed and comprehensive guide, but rather provides one-page introductions to a variety of popular,  multi-species bird monitoring programs and protocols that are currently used, or could be used, within the Southeast Partners in Flight region. Each non-technical summary provides a short overview of each method, highlights of its strengths and weaknesses, examples of how each method is being used in bird conservation, and links to web pages where more detailed information can be found.

Bird Monitoring Program Evaluation Tool (2010)The Bird Monitoring Evaluation Tool was designed to help evaluate and improve bird monitoring programs based on the principles outlined in the North American Bird Conservation Initiative report, Opportunities for Improving Avian Monitoring.  

Best Practices and Standards for Bird Monitoring Data (2010)Data management is a process involving a broad range of activities from administrative to technical aspects of handling data. In-depth information about these practices is provided throughout this document. Additional biodiversity-related information and resources covering some of the data management activities mentioned in the document are also provided in the appendices.


Informational Articles:

The Northeast Bird Monitoring Handbook: Ten steps to successful bird conservation through improved monitoring (2009)Don’t let the title fool you – this handbook provides practical ideas for increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of bird monitoring throughout the U.S.  It takes the recommendations from NABCI’s Opportunities for Improving Avian Monitoring (2007) and provides excellent step-by-step guidance for effective bird monitoring partnerships throughout North America.

Monitoring in the context of structured decision making and adaptive management (2008)In a natural resource management setting, monitoring is a crucial component of an informed process for making decisions, and monitoring design should be driven by the decision context and associated uncertainties. Monitoring itself can play three roles. First, it is important for state-dependent decision-making, as when managers need to know the system state before deciding on the appropriate course of action during the ensuing management cycle. Second, monitoring is critical for evaluating the effectiveness of management actions relative to objectives. Third, in an adaptive management setting, monitoring provides the feedback loop for learning about the system; learning is sought not for its own sake but primarily to better achieve management objectives. In this case, monitoring should be designed to reduce the critical uncertainties in models of the managed system. With limited staff and budgets, management agencies need efficient monitoring programs that are used for decision-making, not comprehensive studies that elucidate all manner of ecological relationships.

Opportunities for Improving Avian Monitoring (2007)The North American Bird Conservation Initiative’s (NABCI) Monitoring Subcommittee challenged the bird conservation community to increase its use of sound bird monitoring programs for informed decision-making with this 2007 publication. This important document serves as the foundation for coordinated bird monitoring partnerships throughout North America and continues to give us a benchmark to strive for as we address bird monitoring and conservation issues throughout the continent.

National Sampling Grid Recommendations (2013): To sustain healthy bird populations into the future, bird conservation practitioners can greatly benefit from a seamless national and international grid system. Use of standard methods and frameworks for data collection and/or data delivery can facilitate coordination and integration of data from monitoring activities and overcome some of the challenges created through the current use of arbitrary sampling locations and grid reference systems. These challenges pose an impediment to greater collaboration and data integration goals. The Military Grid Reference System (MGRS) and the United States National Grid (USNG) are existing standard location reference systems that are already being used in sampling designs and for reporting of data from avian research and monitoring activities.

The Science and Application of Ecological Monitoring (2010)This paper provides a broad overview of the underlying philosophy of ecological monitoring. The authors argue that the major characteristics of effective monitoring programs typically include: (1) Good questions. (2) A conceptual model of an ecosystem or population. (3) Strong partnerships between scientists, policy-makers and managers. (4) Frequent use of data collected.  It classifies monitoring programs into three categories – (1) Passive monitoring, which is devoid of specified questions or underlying study design and has limited rationale other than curiosity. (2) Mandated monitoring where environmental data are gathered as a stipulated requirement of government legislation or a political directive. The focus is usually to identify trends. (3) Question-driven monitoring, which is guided by a conceptual model and by a rigorous design that will typically result in a priori predictions that can be tested.  A key remaining challenge is to develop much improved mandated monitoring programs through more widespread adoption of the features of successful question-driven monitoring programs in efforts to enhance biodiversity conservation and environmental management.