• Baseline data of bird populations in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve, Mexico: a citizen science approach

      Anderson, Teresa S.; Fix, Peter J.; Carsten-Conner, Laura D.; Dalle-Molle, Lois K. (2017-12)
      This project tested the viability of converting a local environmental education group, "Eco Chavos" into a team of citizen scientists. In rural biosphere reserves in Mexico, with few resources and large resident populations, community-based biological inventory and monitoring has the potential to increase the impact of Mexican biosphere reserves by generating scientific information and engaging local residents in hands-on environmental education. To test this, I formed a citizen science birding group and trained them in bird identification, survey techniques, data collection, and data management. The project began in January 2016 and in December 2016 I stopped mentoring the program and let it continue under its own leadership. Our team was composed of an Eco Chavos group and a resident ornithologist who conducted land and water-based surveys multiple times a month. As of August 2017, 160 bird species have been registered, including three species endemic to Mexico; the Crimson-collared Grosbeak (Rhodothraupis celaeno), Blue Mockingbird (Melanotis caerulescens), and Spotted Wren (Campylorhynchus gularis). The survey provided an inventory of bird diversity in the reservoir, and could serve as a starting point to measure occurrence and abundance over time. The data were published in the updated management plan of the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve as well as in a new bird book, Guía de Aves de la Presa Jalpan. A new community group, "Aves de la Presa Jalpan" was formed and contributed information via an online public database. The database may be used by the international network of bird monitors to analyze population trends in both local Mexican bird populations and in international bird migrations. In addition, participants showed increased bird identification skills, leadership, increased interest in birds, and engagement in project tasks and planning. Infrastructure was built to encourage birdwatching tourism in the Biosphere Reserve and the foundation was set to continue this research in the future.