One of the best things about my new job at Maine Audubon is that it has once again brought me close to people who are citizen-scientists. I first witnessed the power of citizen science 25 years ago, when I became CEO of Trout Unlimited. At that time, hundreds of volunteers were gathering data on stream acidification in the southeastern United States, and their work was helping federal and state agencies do a better job of limiting emissions of the air pollutants that caused acid rain. In the decades that followed, I saw a number of other examples of citizens contributing the information needed for well-informed conservation decision-making.
I’m glad to be back in the company of citizens who practice science in the service of conservation. From December 14 to January 5, Maine Audubon volunteers will join citizen-scientists nationwide for the 115th Annual Christmas Bird Count. Maine Audubon’s members (over 2,000 contribute to citizen science each year!) are the backbone of a vital effort to track the status and trends of birds in the huge swath of habitat that is Maine. Without their work, we’d be far less informed about the effects of climate change on the 50 Maine bird species that the recent National Audubon report on North American birds and climate change tells us are at risk. Maine Audubon could not possibly hire enough professionals to fill this important data gap.
The Christmas Bird Count is citizen science at its best. Not only are its practitioners gathering information that is critical to conservation; they are also demonstrating the passion for wildlife that is the essential ingredient—the special sauce—that translates science into policy. So go forth, and let the counting begin!
P.S. In case you haven’t heard, the Maine section of the International Appalachian Trail was named after Dick Anderson, former executive director of Maine Audubon. Watch the segment on Bill Green’s Maine to learn more about this great conservation leader in Maine.
Charles Gauvin started at Maine Audubon in 2014. Gauvin brings more than 25 years of experience in conservation leadership, much of it as the president and CEO of Trout Unlimited, the nation’s leading river and fish conservation organization.Gauvin most recently served as Chief Development Officer at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC. He collaborated with Carnegie scholars worldwide to develop program strategies and support in the United States, Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Asia and South Asia.