Thursday, November 20, 2014

Arizona IBA partnership with Student Conservation Association

by Jennie MacFarland, IBA Conservation Biologist

For a second year the Arizona Important Bird Areas Program has been partnering with the Student Conservation Association and this has brought our volunteers together with these college-age students of the SCA in remarkable ways. This partnership was born of another partnership, that between Tucson Audubon and Audubon Arizona in Phoenix who share the coordination of the Arizona Important Bird Areas Program. Tice Supplee, Director of Bird Conservation at Audubon Arizona, teaches a class at Phoenix College on Wildlife and has become a mentor to students within the SCA on wildlife survey techniques. These students receive a very diverse set of skills through different training sessions including wilderness first aid, "leave no trace" and wilderness fire fighting. For the bird survey portion of their training they are working with us at Arizona IBA with the further benefit of generating useful data for the program.

SCA students and IBA volunteers at Buenos Aires Oct 2013
Last winter in Buenos Aires NWR the SCA students and IBA volunteers paired off into teams and did driving transect surveys with an emphasis on grassland birds such as wintering sparrows, thrashers and raptors.
Mel from the SCA crew records the bird data seen through the spotting scope!

IBA Volunteer and SCA student kicking up birds in the grass - M. Van de Water
This SCA Program focuses on students from very racially diverse and economically diverse backgrounds and gives them training that can help them to find jobs in the ecology and environmental fields later. We have found these students to be a delight to work with and they are very enthusiastic and eager to learn. They are normally assigned to the role of filling out the data sheets during the survey and their sheets are often the most carefully filled out sheets I encounter.
The SCA students had also worked with Pronghorn in partnership with USFWS

Students from the SCA have also helped us with other projects including Bendire's Thrasher surveys at the new Chicken Springs IBA west of Wickieup that is distictive for its large Joshua Trees.
Joshua Tree IBA - a mix of Mohave and Sonoran Desert habitat
A Bendire's Thrasher found by an SCA student
Just this last week we partnered again with the SCA and a group of students helped us to survey the Arivaca Cienega and Creek for the first time ever! These riparian surveys are a bit challenging so it was great to have such enthusiastic help from these young people!
SCA student in Arivaca Creek

IBA Volunteers and SCA students after the survey in Arivaca
This upcoming spring we will be working with the SCA students again to count Gilded Flickers in Cabeza Prieta NWR and Organ Pipe National Park to try and qualify the Sonoran Desert Borderlands IBA as a Continental IBA. Here's to partnerships!

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