Biodiversity Research Institute
Biodiversity Research Institute
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Wildlife and Renewable Energy Program
Wildlife and Renewable Energy Program

Careful siting of renewable energy development seems to play a key role in minimizing impacts to wildlife, but this requires detailed knowledge of animals’ migratory movements, habitat needs, and other life history information. To address this need, BRI established a wildlife and renewable energy program and is involved in several areas of wind power research and marine spatial planning in the eastern United States.

Program Director: Kate Williams
Program Staff: Emily Connelly, Sarah Johnson

BRI’s Research on this Issue

BRI biologists are studying the distributions and movements of birds, bats, marine mammals, sea turtles, and other wildlife along the Atlantic coast and elsewhere in the United States. We use a variety of methods (including boat surveys, high definition video aerial surveys, visual aerial surveys, individual tracking, mist netting and banding, and passive acoustics) to document wildlife uses of terrestrial and offshore environments and understand animals’ movement patterns and habitat use.
BRI's Wildlife and Renewable Energy Program combines the resources of other BRI programs to carry out research studies that cross species lines and geographic boundaries. Below are the types of projects we have initiated through this program.
Offshore Baseline Studies

Offshore Baseline Studies

The siting of marine wind energy development hinges, in part, on a better understanding of the extent of direct and indirect environmental impacts. In early 2012, BRI began its first project to establish baseline information on animal distributions and habitat use offshore. This information will be used to assess potential risks to wildlife and to attempt to minimize the effects of planned offshore development on birds, marine mammals, and sea turtles.

Projects with a focus on offshore baseline studies include:

Wildlife Science and Wind Energy Policy Initiatives

Wildlife Science and Wind Energy Policy Initiatives

Offshore wind energy is an important renewable natural resource. However, relatively little research has been carried out in the United States of the short and long-term ecological effects of offshore turbines on marine species and habitats. To help fill this information gap, BRI launched a Wildlife Science and Marine Wind Energy Initiative, which became the catalyst for multiple projects related to this issue, including:

Coastal Migration Studies

Coastal Migration Studies

BRI's findings from a 2010 Saw-whet Owl study indicated that coastal habitats and islands may be important stopover areas for these owls during migration. This project was the beginning of a series of coastal and offshore migration studies on a variety of migrating birds, including raptors and songbirds. Projects include: 

Other Multidisciplinary Projects

Other Multidisciplinary Projects

Our Wildlife and Renewable Energy Program works collaboratively with BRI's other programs to share data and techniques to enhance our overall knowledge of wildlife and ecosystems that may be affected by development of alternative energy. Examples of these multidisciplinary projects include:

 
Photo Credits: Header photo: © BRI-Jonathan Fiely. Study species: Northern long-eared bat © Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International, www.batcon.org; Surf Scoter © Daniel Poleschook; Red-throated Loon © BRI-Jonathan Fiely; Northern Gannet © BRI-Jonathan Fiely; Peregrine Falcon © Al Hinde; Northern Waterthrush © Ken Archer. Northern Gannet with sat tag © BRI-Jonathan Fiely; Wind turbines © iStock; Boat surveys © BRI- Emily Connelly; Bird banding © © BRI-Jonathan Fiely; Pergrine Falcone with backpack © BRI-Jonathan Fiely.
Biodiversity Research Institute