Wetlands Program

Freshwater and coastal wetlands are highly productive ecosystems. These environments also promote the conversion of inorganic mercury to the highly toxic organic methylmercury. Birds that occupy wetland habitats may be particularly vulnerable to methylmercury exposure - high concentrations can impair behavior, physiology, survival, and reproductive success.

In addition to mercury exposure, wetland bird populations are threatened by the loss of habitat associated with human development, sea level rise due to climate change, invasive species, and pollution.

BRI’s wetland scientists conduct research with local, state, and federal agencies as well as other conservation organizations to examine the impact of these and other stressors on wetland bird populations. BRI has also begun new studies on shorebirds, such as the willet. Researchers affix geolocators (tracking devices) to willets to help determine migration patterns and understand potential stressors encountered along their migratory routes and on wintering grounds.

The program is also expanding efforts into mangroves and other tropical wetlands through collaborations with scientists in Peru, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and Montserat.

“Birds are excellent indicators of the health of freshwater, tidal and
wetlands ecosystems.”
Oksana Lane, Program Director

Program Director

Oksana Piterman Lane

207.839.7600 ext. 106

Field Staff

Field Crew Leader/Research Assistant: Kevin Regan
Rusty Blackbird Project Coordinator: Sam Edmonds
Shorebird Coordinator: Marie Perkins
Collaborating BRI Staff: David Buck, Tim Divoll
Other Contributing BRI Staff: Dave Evers, Bruce Rinker

Program Goals

Current BRI Projects

International Collaboration

The wetlands program is partnering with the biologists from Reserva Playa Tortuga (RPT) to develop collaborative projects and provide training to local biologists with the goal to promote conservation of resident and migrant bird and bat populations. RPT is located in an ideal setting to study coastal and wetland/mangrove biology and is set up to host and house groups of volunteers and biologists.

RPT is located just 3.5 hours from San Jose, in Ojochal de Osa on the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica. The Reserva is situated at the mouth of the Terraba River, which is a part of the Terraba Sierpe national wetlands, a RAMSAR site just outside of Marino Ballena National Park. The reserve, located in tropical rainforest, offers a unique environment to researchers and volunteers. Habitats found within RPT include pasture, swamp, estuary, coral reefs, sand beach, rocky beach, riparian forest, mangrove forest, regenerating forest, and secondary forest.

Geographic Focus

North, Central, South America and the Caribbean Islands

Recent Reports, Papers and Presentations