An Online Portal for Managing and Reporting Annual Piping Plover Monitoring Data

Science Center Objects

Federally-listed as threatened since 1986, the Atlantic Coast Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) population comprises fewer than 2,000 breeding pairs, according to the most recent census data. These breeding pairs are the target of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) species recovery plan.

Adult and juvenile Piping Plovers (Kaiti Titherington/USFWS)
Adult and juvenile Piping Plovers (Kaiti Titherington/USFWS)

The Science Issue and Relevance: Federally-listed as threatened since 1986, the Atlantic Coast Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) population comprises fewer than 2,000 breeding pairs, according to the most recent census data. These breeding pairs are the target of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) species recovery plan. As an indicator species, Piping Plovers reflect the condition of the ocean beaches, barrier islands, and other sandy coastal habitats in which they nest. These habitats also provide economic benefits and storm protection for humans. Ongoing management for sustained population growth across the region is informed by an extensive, long-term monitoring program spanning numerous Federal and State agencies, universities, and other non-governmental organizations. Although standard annual metrics—productivity and breeding pair counts—are defined by the recovery plan, resource managers have expressed a need for standardized reporting of additional survival metrics that provide context and adjust for observation errors and uncertainty. Furthermore, field data collected by member organizations is logically and geographically disjointed, limiting the ability of researchers and resource managers to effectively study system-wide trends, develop regional-scale population models, and devise management strategies.

Piper Plover sample nest/brood survival report
Piper Plover sample nest/brood survival report

Methodology for Addressing the Issue: In partnership with the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), we developed a system for improved digital data management and reporting for annual Piping Plover monitoring. The Plover Inventory and Productivity Library (PIPLweb) is an online data portal for storing, managing, and generating reports from yearly summaries of nest, brood, and pair data. These data are recorded during regular nest checks throughout the Piping Plover breeding season. End users with appropriate permission can log in to PIPLweb to enter and view annual nest and brood summary data, which are stored in a centralized database. An integrated reporting engine allows end users to filter available data by location and year, and produce a standardized annual report detailing nest and brood outcomes. Along with basic summary metrics (i.e., nesting attempts, unique breeding pairs, occurrence of various fates), reports include productivity estimates, nest and brood survival rates modeled using Dinsmore’s (2002) nest survival model (found within the Program MARK software package), survival trends charted over the prior decade, and maps illustrating the spatial distribution of nests.

Plover Inventory and Productivity Library (PIPL) Website
Plover Inventory and Productivity Library (PIPL) Website

Future Steps: PIPLweb was initially developed for Forsythe NWR resource managers, but with consideration for potential use by the entire Atlantic Coast Piping Plover monitoring community. A new collaboration with the USFWS Region 5 Inventory and Monitoring program will widen the user base to other Atlantic Coast refuges and parks by including PIPLweb in a regional Piping Plover monitoring protocol. This collaboration will also result in the development of increased capabilities within PIPLweb. Planned improvements include: (1) expanding the database from annual summary data to full daily field records, (2) facilitating the import of historical and current data from refuge- and state-level systems, (3) interactive nest and brood mapping, (4) integrating models and tools developed by other researchers, and (5) further refinement of the standardized annual report.