Oil company’s $100,000 grant to expand bird monitoring across La. coast

09 12, 2017 by Houma Courier

A $100,000 oil company grant will more than double the capabilities of a project that tracks radio-tagged birds throughout south Louisiana’s wetlands.

ConocoPhillips donated the money to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The grant will help fill in the gaps of the Coastal Louisiana Array Project.

This project is a joint effort among the state agency, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Foundation and the Thibodaux-based Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program.

“BTNEP is pleased to partner with the many organizations and funding partners who understand the value of tracking migratory birds,″ Director Susan Testroet-Bergeron said. “The key benefit of this technology is that it allows biologists to conduct research on target individuals without the requirement of recurring and often random visual observation. This low-impact form of monitoring has led to tremendous advances in our knowledge of bird habitat use, breeding success and mortality.”

The groups have erected 13 radio tracking stations along the coast since since July 2016, officials said.

ConocoPhillips’ grant will allow construction of 19 more by next July, creating an almost seamless digital network across the entire Louisiana coast. ConocoPhillips, through its subsidiary, Louisiana Land and Exploration, which owns about 636,000 acres, will provide free access to its property do do the work.

Louisiana’s network is based on Bird Studies Canada’s Motus Wildlife Tracking System. Radio-tracking of animals has occurred since the 1960s, but miniaturization of electronics and the collaborative nature of the Motus project have revolutionized animal tracking, officials said.

Biologists across North America have been attaching miniature radio tags, called nanotags, to birds, insects and other animals for several years. Nanotags emit radio signals that are detected by the receiver stations, allowing scientists to study animal behaviors like migration and allowing identification of sites for conservation.

Several dozen birds, from songbirds to shorebirds, including federally threatened species like the red knot, have already been detected in the project’s first year, the Wildlife and Fisheries Department said in a news release. Because of the Motus program and Louisiana’s new coastal network, Louisiana scientists and colleagues across the globe are able to more efficiently study animal movements and implement conservation.