The Foundation conducts conservation research projects in areas where natural resources, including bird populations, are being degraded or otherwise impacted. For example, we have conducted a bird inventorying and monitoring project in Guatemala every year since 2001.
In 2007 we surveyed the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area for declining Grasshopper Sparrows (Ammodramus savannarum) with the National Park Service. With our Research Associate Pete Bloom we are also conducting population monitoring of threatened birds on Seal Beach Naval Weapon Station, in San Diego, to determine the impacts of habitat changes, predation, and parasitism on these species. And in 2009-2010, we will be conducting surveys for rare Island Loggerhead Shrikes (Lanius ludovicianus anthonyi) on Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands off the coast of California.
In some instances, our research may involve the collection of a limited number of specimens (eggs, nests, and birds) to document the presence of a species in a particular area or to test for contaminants. The information gained by collecting such specimens provides crucial information for conservation efforts without hurting bird populations. Information from bird specimens provides important data about bird anatomy, behavior, biology, ecology, eco-toxicology, evolution, and physiology.
A lot of data can be obtained from specimens, including information about breeding, sex, molt, diet, distribution, and habitat use. Also, field guides use museum specimens for bird illustration; land purchases for conservation are often based on inventories of species present in an area; and wildlife authorities use museum specimens to identify illegal traffic in birds. Museum specimens are also used for genetic analyses, to determine if species classifications are correct, and specimens collected a century ago can be analyzed for levels of toxic chemicals for comparison with current levels. For example, eggs in our collection and in other museum collections around the world were used for analyses of DDT/DDE levels in the California Condor, Brown Pelican, Peregrine Falcon, and many other endangered species. The results of these investigations helped ban the production of DDT in many countries, including the U.S., and contributed to the recovery of these species.