NJAS Shorebird Project Hosts International Interns


During the spring 2009 migratory season, 3 international interns traveled north to spend some time with our own Dr. David Mizrahi and his research team. The interns are Pablo Lobera Alvarez of Baja, Mexico, Idris Fredison from Suriname, and Tomás Pagnon of French Guiana.  Not only did they join our shorebird monitoring team, but also participated in various education and outreach programs. This is the sixth season that NJAS has been a part of the Park Flight Migratory Bird Program international internships.  The Park Flight program, a partnership between the National Park Service (NPS), the National Park Foundation and others, protects shared migratory bird species and their habitats in the United States, Canadian, Latin American and Caribbean national parks and protected areas.  Their work involves implementing bird monitoring and education projects, and creating opportunities for technical exchange and cooperation. The NJ Coastal Heritage Trail Route is NJAS's partner in this program.

Pablo Lobera from Baja, Mexico Idris Fredison from Suriname Tomás Pagnon from French Guiana

Pablo is an avid naturalist, speaks Spanish and English fluently, and holds a bachelors degree in ornithology. He participated in projects monitoring shorebirds in Ensenada de la Paz, BCS, Mexico, as well as distribution and abundance of land birds at San Jose Island and San Francisco Island, both located in the Gulf of California. Pablo has also been active at a local eco-park in Cabo San Lucas concerned with protection of sea turtles. While there, he initiated ecological field work and land bird surveys, as well as working as an eco-tour guide. Pablo enjoys working with youth, as well, especially teaching conservation awareness to school groups. He is currently working on projects at the Parque Bahia Nacional de Loreto (Loreto Bay National Park). In 2007, Pablo had the opportunity to work with Dr. Larry Niles in the ongoing Delaware Bay Red Knot research, and met NJAS' research team headed by Dr. David Mizrahi. And so, this year's opportunity is a homecoming of sorts as he returns to Delaware Bay. "I am so excited to be working with shorebirds again," he said, "It gives me a chance to strengthen my skills, and learn new techniques to take back to my country."  Pablo's quick wit and ready smile helped keep the team's spirits up when the day was slow, or the "no-see-ems" were particularly bothersome.  Pablo was the first to arrive, and spent his first week making the plastic green coded flags to be put on the Semipalmanted Sandpipers legs.  These flags are color coded by location.  The team is hoping some of the birds they flagged in Suriname this past January, 2009 will be seen on the Delaware Bayshore by spotters, or even re-captured by the team, in spring, 2010.

Idris is a nature educator and attends an advanced teachers college in Suriname. He speaks Dutch(official language of Suriname), English and Surinamese, and has a passion for conservation education.. This is his first visit to the United States, but not his first time working with our research team. Idris was part of the team in Suriname that met and worked with our own Dr. Mizrahi and his team in January of 2009, banding Semipalmated Sandpipers on their wintering grounds along the coast of Suriname. Idris works for the Foundation for Nature Conservation in Suriname (STINASU), offering a myriad of nature programs to school groups, including nature camps, which take students to several habitats within the park. He is hoping to take skills learned here back to Suriname to enhance these camps. STINASU and the Brownsberg Nature Park, were founded to promote ecotourism, with monies used to fund local conservation and research projects. Idris has a wide field biology background, having worked on monitoring projects for Giant Otters and, recently, Scarlet Ibis, sandpipers and yellowlegs. He has also been involved in classification of flora and fauna in the park.

Tomás is also a familiar face. He is a biologist at the Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage (National Hunting and Wildlife Agency) in French Guiana, and worked closely with our research team in French Guiana this past January. The team's visit to Suriname and French Guiana is part of a grant funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to assess the population status and conservation needs for the Semipalmated Sandpiper.

Pablo, Idris and Tomás became an integral part of the shorebird monitoring team, which bands over 1,000 shorebirds each season. They participated in every phase of the research from making the flag bands to extracting birds from the banding nets to all facets of data collection (i.e. weighing, measuring, banding and color marking the birds). All three noted the abundance of biting insects here in southern New Jersey, and all gave their share of blood, albeit not voluntarily, during the field season.  Pablo's comment was, "Wow, you certainly do have a lot of flies and such here.  We don't have anything but mosquitoes in my country."  All were grateful for the newest fashion, the "bugshirt."

Dr. Kim Peters, NJAS Director of Research and Monitoring and the Shorebird Project coordinator explained, "These young people brought expertise and new perspectives to our program while also learning skills they can use in conservation education programs in their home countries. Our migratory birds do not recognize international borders when moving between their wintering and breeding grounds, and this international project helps connect people and birds in the Western Hemisphere." All three have a passion for conservation, and were excited to represent their countries in this international conservation effort.

NJAS was fortunate to have two of these interns present programs at the 2009 Spring Weekend in Cape May, focusing on the conservation and research efforts in their respective countries. A theme in both countries is the lack of sufficient data on migrating birds, including songbirds.  Each has been actively involved in efforts to begin regular monitoring of important wintering grounds for our summer residents. 

Additionally, each of the interns interacted with several school groups during May - sharing their stories and passion for conservation and wildlife with middle and high school students.

The education experience flowed both ways.  While Pablo, Tomas and Idris learned our techniques of netting and banding shorebirds, NJAS research staff in turn learned the difficulties of conservation education and public awareness in foreign countries.  We wish them well as these biologists return to their respective countries with fresh ideas and projects in mind, to go hand-in-hand with their enthusiasm and passion for conservation, avian fauna and education.

-René Buccinna

For additional information, call, write or email
NJAS Department of Education
 Center for Research and Education
 600 Route 47 North
 Cape May Court House, NJ  08210
  (609) 861-0700  

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