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August 30, 2022

The USGS Eastern Ecological Science Center’s Bird Banding Laboratory makes connections around the globe through its Banders Without Borders initiative. Since the launch of the initiative in September 2021, the lab has increased communications, formed partnerships and initiated collaborations with other bird banding schemes. 

A world map with five bubbles depicting birds/bird banding and the five goals
The Banders Without Borders invitation flyer, highlighting the connectivity of the initiative and detailing the five mains goals the initiative plans on achieving 

“I am impressed with how much we have accomplished in the first year of Banders Without Borders,” says Antonio Celis-Murillo, Ph.D., manager of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Bird Banding Laboratory, a program based out of the Eastern Ecological Science Center “We have already begun collaborating with other banding schemes and made incredible progress.”   

The Banders Without Borders initiative is a monthly webinar series in which the lab meets with a different banding scheme from around the world to share each banding programs’ goals, history, current projects and activities. Banding schemes are programs responsible for many aspects of bird banding within their country and hold authority over banding permits. Since the launch of the Banders Without Borders initiative in September 2021, the lab has made connections between all 7 continents by meeting with 9 different banding schemes representing New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, South Africa, Japan, Chile, Sweden, France, and Germany. I am excited to see how the next year will unfold. We are scheduled to meet with a few more banding schemes in the next couple of months which will provide even more collaborative opportunities,” continues Celis-Murillo.  

The most recent meetings have been held with three schemes in Europe (Sweden, France and Germany) that collectively, have provided unique perspectives to the EESC-Bird Banding Lab. Like the lab, each of these schemes has been operating for more than 100 years, which allowed for discussions on how schemes have grown and developed in response to increased interest in bird banding, technological advances and how to address current science, partner, and societal needs. In addition, many schemes in Europe including Sweden, France, and Germany are part of a coordinating organization known as Euring. International cooperation is vital among the closely neighboring European nations because birds freely move across political boundaries. Just a few years after it was established, Euring developed a standardized code for the easy exchange of data among banding schemes. Today, Euring serves as an example of successful collaborative design to achieve scientific and conservations goals. Open discourse with the programs engaged in this type of international cooperation could be the precursor to establishing a similar collaboration within the Americas, and a way to reach Banders Without Borders’ objective of connecting countries in the Western Hemisphere.    

Overall, the lab has had a successful first year of the Banders Without Borders initiative. Current collaborative products of the Banders Without Borders initiative are the development of a broader list of bander resources to help with our North American researchers working abroad; increased coordination of auxiliary marking among countries efforts to reduce duplication and confusion for birds which cross political borders; and received input and recommendations on the design of the lab’s upcoming web-based data entry via the Bander Portal. Through this initiative the lab has had many more strategic ideas that will ensure it becomes a robust, integrated scientific national resource. One that can rapidly adapt to new science needs, study methods, and technologies that will facilitate the successful and effective discipline of bird management and conservation. After celebrating a fruitful first year, the lab looks forward to future collaboration and discussion as the initiative goes into its second year.  

A map with a line drawn between Japan and Alaska showing the movement of a golden colored bird
A Pacific Golden-Plover (Pluvialis fulva), like the one pictured, was originally banded with a USGS federal metal leg band in Alaska and then encountered in Japan several months later. Currently, the lab is working together with Japan's banding scheme housed in the Yamashina Institute for Ornithology, to ensure this bird's banding and movement data are shared between schemes. The Banders Without Borders initiative is working to improve communication amongst banding schemes around the world to ensure data are captured and regularly exchanged.

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