Coastal Waterbird Program’s Urban Outreach Initiative
Mass Audubon’s Coastal Waterbird Program (CWP) strives to increase protection for rare bird habitat. One way to accomplish this is by generating awareness and appreciation from the general public.
As the number of breeding pairs of piping plovers at Boston urban beaches has exploded over the past several years (from three breeding pairs in 2011 to 24 in 2016), CWP recognized the opportunity to engage a diverse, urban community to help with the protection of critical habitat for these federally threatened coastal birds.
Boston Beach Outreach
Starting in 2017, CWP has created a culture of conservation in the Metro Boston Region through an urban education and outreach initiative. By partnering with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and the National Park Service, CWP can reach more than 1,500 people in Revere, Winthrop, and the Boston Harbor Islands per year.
These beaches attract approximately a quarter million visitors each summer, including a high concentration of minority populations. They also serve as valuable ‘‘living laboratories’’ because these biologically productive habitats near watersheds are influenced by urban populations and climate change factors. To improve communication to the diverse populations on the beaches, CWP created Discovery Stations that offered Spanish-translated materials and staff who speak Spanish.
The program connects to the Metro Boston community through a variety of effective and inclusive environmental education activities, including school programs, volunteer events, and a lot of informal conversations with beachgoers.
Programs for Students
Led by CWP Education Specialist Melanie Gárate, Mass Audubon and DCR holds educational programs for hundreds of elementary and high school students in Revere, Chelsea, and East Boston focused on piping plover life history, ecology, and conservation.
Mass Audubon also partners with Massachusetts General Hospital’s Youth Scholars program, an after-school group designed for students of diverse backgrounds interested in science and health careers.
To engage the larger community, Mass Audubon and DCR hosts volunteer events, including coastal cleanups on Belle Isle Marsh, Rumney Marsh, and Revere Beach, and also partners with the New England Aquarium’s live blue™ Service Corps to assist waterbird monitors during peak summer weekends.
The success of this initiative serves as the foundation for building a larger educational toolkit and broader conservation community centered on the environmental and education needs of the Commonwealth.