by Kristen Rosamond
One way that scientists can cut back on Carbon emissions is by reducing travel, which has recently been one of the incentives for conferences to occur remotely – including over Twitter! I had the opportunity to participate in the first ever International Shorebird Twitter Conference, hosted by the British Ornithologists’ Union and International Wader Study Group. I was able to engage with the scientific community without some of the complications of in-person conferences, including the usual fees, and now COVID.
The goal of my presentation, “Do parental care patterns affect shorebird population trends?”, was to determine whether the life history trait of parental care is related to declines in North American shorebird populations. I predicted that species with uniparental care are more likely to have declining populations than those with biparental care due to their higher degree of specialization.
Biparental care is ancestral in shorebirds and dominant in the family Charadriidae., while the Scolopacidae family has primarily evolved male-only care.
I found that parental care strategy (uniparental vs. biparental) was not related to population trends. However, which sex provided more care was correlated with population trends. Species dividing care evenly between the sexes had the highest proportion of stable and increasing trends.
It is possible that species that divide parental care evenly between sexes share other traits that explain their high proportion of species with stable population trends. The high contribution of species with primarily male care to the number of species with declining population trends may be because there are more shorebird species with primarily male care than female care in general. In the future, I hope to expand on this project by analyzing parental care and population trends in shorebird populations both in North America and beyond.
The International Shorebird Twitter Conference was a unique experience, and I am happy I had the chance to participate. I learned a great deal about shorebird conservation, behavior, and genetics without ever leaving my home. I am also very grateful for the help I received from Sandra Goded and Nico Arcilla of IBCP in putting my presentation together.
You can view my presentation on the IBCP Twitter account @IBCPbirds or see other presentations from the conference by searching the hashtag #ISTC2020