BirdEyes at International Wader Study Group meeting

Emma Penning & Wouter Vansteelant

From 29 September to 2 October the International Wader Study Group meeting was held on Sylt in Germany. As the name already suggests, this is an annual conference for anyone interested in waders, shorebird science and conservation. In a different European country each year, the conference usually spans a weekend in September or October, and attracts participants from across the globe. Many BirdEyes-associates work on waders and a few are even members of the International Wader Study Group board, so BirdEyes was well represented: more than 20 talks and poster presentations were given by BirdEyes-associates on the ecology, behaviour and conservation of waders. Seeing so many like-minded people from around the world and from different flyways, resulted in many formal and informal meetings to catch up or continue with collaborations.

All the delegates at the 2023 International Wader Study Group meeting joined together for a group picture.

One of the most memorable moments in the conference was undoubtedly the closing talk by writer and conservationist Mary Colwell. Using hard-hitting statistics (most British children spend less time outdoors than the average prisoner) Mary confronted us with an inconvenient but important truth: that all our research and conservation work won’t make a damned difference unless we are able to rekindle people’s latent love for nature, and that providing high-quality nature education to future generations is essential to achieving this. 

It was inspiring to hear Mary talk about the campaign to establish a GCSE in Natural History in the UK school system; a telling example of how much good can be achieved by a few dedicated people. But Mary also reminded us -researchers- that we all have an important and powerful role to play as interpreters and story-tellers of the natural world, and that society is eager for us to play that role too. A message that goes to the very heart of BirdEyes. We’re with you Mary!

Mary Colwell bringing her message across at the conference.

Centre for global ecological change at the University of Groningen

Birdeyes is a science and creative centre that views the world - almost literally - through the eyes of birds. More and more birds are flying around with tiny transmitters, loggers and other high technology on their backs and legs. This generates an unimaginable amount of information. By cleverly combining such data with other sources of information, and by using new ways to tell stories and share the insights with, BirdEyes strives to open up a new knowledge network. The centre aims to be an innovative part of the University of Groningen and is linked to the Rudolph Agricola School for Sustainable Development. BirdEyes, with empirical and inspirational roots in the farthest corners of the world.

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