November 13, 2023
The International Bird Observatory Conference (IBOC) in Veracruz, Mexico, was recently hosted by a team of avian conservation stalwarts: Manuel Grosselet and his wife Georgita Ruiz, along with Alan Monroy-Ojeda from Tierra De Aves, and Miguel Matta from Environment for the Americas. Building upon the foundation laid by the previous three IBOCs, this event continued the vital work of promoting avian conservation across the globe.
“IBOC is the forum where we assess the needs of birds, educate diverse audiences, and ultimately bolster the conservation of birds and their habitats.” This mission began when the inaugural IBOC convened in 2014 at the Falsterbo Bird Observatory in Sweden, followed by a 2017 assembly at Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory in New Jersey, and then a 2019 conference at the Banding and Research Center in Eilat, hosted by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.
This year, the torch was passed to my friend and partner Manuel Grosselet and his wife Georgita Ruiz via Tierra De Aves. In Veracruz, we had the invaluable opportunity to engage with speakers from around the world and learn about the challenges and future prospects for avian protection as seen by bird observatories, banding stations, researchers, and federal agencies worldwide.
I was honored to present the 50 Ducks platform to an international audience, sharing our commitment to addressing the pressing issues in avian conservation. Throughout the four-day conference, several recurring themes emerged:
50 Ducks is poised to tackle these challenges head-on. We’re not only confident in our capacity to provide critical data to researchers around the world but also in our central mission: to kindle a passion for waterfowl in children, nurturing the next generation of conservationists.
Throughout the 40+ sessions at IBOC, I found myself immersed in a wide array of perspectives, each speaker painting a broader stroke on the canvas of bird conservation. As the conference unfolded, it was clear that we were all there for a common purpose: to champion the cause of avian life and the ecosystems they inhabit.
The critical role of “citizen science” in our collective efforts was repeated throughout the presentations during the conference. It was a call to arms for ordinary people to engage in the extraordinary work of conservation, emphasizing that every pair of hands makes a difference. It was not only about creating a repository of data but fostering a widespread culture of stewardship. This is where 50 Ducks aligns seamlessly, as we aim to empower individuals to take part in conservation through participatory science and education.
Moreover, as the discussions ventured into the realm of education, it was profoundly evident that starting young was not just an option but a necessity. Children are the custodians of tomorrow’s natural world, and their early experiences with wildlife shape their future attitudes and actions. At 50 Ducks, we are crafting narratives and educational materials that resonate with the younger audience, fostering a sense of wonder and responsibility towards waterfowl and their habitats.
And, of course, funding—the lifeblood of research and conservation initiatives—was a universal challenge. However, it was also a catalyst for innovation. The need to devise novel fundraising strategies was apparent, and here, 50 Ducks has been at the forefront, harnessing the power of our online platform to not only raise awareness but also to funnel essential resources to where they are most needed. Our website, 50ducks.com, is more than just a digital space; it’s a beacon for change and a hub for community-driven conservation efforts.
We’re not simply gathering data; we’re building a bridge between the public and the scientific community, offering an accessible way for everyone to contribute to a larger movement, a global effort to protect the avian species that are so integral to our world’s biodiversity.
Presenting the 50 Ducks initiative at the International Bird Observatory Conference was a true honor, especially amidst the roster of distinguished speakers. Sharing the stage with the likes of Dr. Antonio Celis from the American Bird Banding Laboratory and experts from Hawk Mountain Observatory, Canadian Wildlife Services, E Bird, The Audubon Society, and colleagues from banding stations as far-flung as Israel and Venezuela was both humbling and exhilarating.
Listening to these renowned figures, each a guardian of avian welfare in their own right, was incredibly inspiring. Their dedication to research and conservation serves as a powerful reminder of the impact that committed individuals and teams can have on our understanding and preservation of bird species.
Standing alongside these researchers, it was clear that 50 Ducks is part of a larger, global community dedicated to avian conservation. The opportunity to contribute our insights and to learn from the best in the field was not just an accolade but a call to action—a reminder of the importance of our collective efforts to safeguard the birds that are so integral to our ecosystem’s diversity.
As we look to the future, the experiences and knowledge shared at this conference will undoubtedly propel our work forward. The honor of being included among such esteemed company only strengthens our resolve to continue our mission with passion and dedication.
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