The BioOne Ambassador Award recognizes early-career researchers who excel at communicating the importance and impact of their specialized research to the public. Nominees were asked to provide a 250-word plain-language summary of their research which responded to the question:
"What are the broader implications of your work, and how does your work impact the public at large?"
Responses were judged for their relevance and clarity. Read below to read Dr. Fournier's winning summary, and learn more about her research.
Managing Public Wetlands for Multiple Wetland Birds
Photo courtesy of Dr. Auriel M.V. Fournier
We have lost many of our wetlands globally, despite their importance for cleaning water, absorbing heavy rains, and providing habitat for plants and wildlife. Many remaining North American wetlands have been cut off from the natural patterns of flooding and drying by the leveeing of major rivers. These wetlands require active management to maintain healthy wetlands. Part of active management is the intentional flooding and drying to mimic natural floodplain patterns. The timing of drying and flooding is especially important to make sure habitat is wet when the animals need it, since habitat available after a migratory bird has left, doesn’t help that species. Wetland managers often try to balance many needs, such as providing habitat for migratory birds and opportunities for humans to hunt or birdwatch. Meeting all these needs can be challenging, especially without complete information about the outcomes of different choices. Conversations with wetland managers in Missouri, USA, led us to answer the question ‘How do two groups of wetland birds who migrate at different times respond when we flood wetlands earlier in autumn migration?’ We found that rails, who migrate earlier, use earlier flooded wetlands earlier more than wetlands which are dry during their migration. Ducks, who migrate later, had no difference between earlier or later flooded wetlands, as both had water during their later migration. Being able to flood earlier to provide habitat for rails without a hurting ducks is a win-win for the birds, and the people who enjoy and wish to conserve them.
This summary is in reference to:
Evaluating Tradeoffs in the Response of Sora (Porzana carolina) and Waterfowl to the Timing of Early Autumn Wetland Inundation
Waterbirds, 42(2): 168-178. 2019.
Auriel M. V. Fournier, Doreen C. Mengel, Edward Gbur, Andy Raedeke, David G. Krementz
Dr. Auriel M.V. Fournier
Nominated by the Waterbirds Society
Auriel Fournier is a quantitative wetland ecologist and ornithologist, working on questions around wetland birds and wetland management as the Director of Forbes Biological Station, with the Illinois Natural History, Prairie Research Institute and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Auriel completed her PhD with the Arkansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Arkansas in 2017.
She then worked as Gulf of Mexico Avian Monitoring Network’s postdoc, working on the structured decision making behind their Strategic Bird Monitoring Guidelines, and associated decision support tools, while also eating as much seafood as possible and catching lots of rails in the saltmarsh. Her work focuses on how we can better manage our public and private wetlands for a wide suite of wetland birds, though her work is often focused on rails and other secretive marsh birds.
What drew you to your current research field?
I was incredibly fortunate to get to tag along and help out several folks who did bird banding while I was still in middle and high school. One of those projects was capturing rails to band them and study their migration, and that is where I fell in love with wetland birds, wetlands and wetland management.
Who most inspired and/or influenced your career?
Doing a PhD with a Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, where my work included spending lots of time with agency land managers, biologist and other scientists, really shaped at how I think about applied science, how I go about designing new projects, and how I think about sharing that information. My dissertation gave us new information to aid in wetland management, but that would have been impossible without my learning from dozens of different people about their specific wetlands, what they see on a daily basis and, their management constraints and concerns.
What one thing would you like the public to remember or understand about your research?
Wetlands are one of that habitats we have lost the most of, despite them being very important for plants, animals and people.
If you had one piece of advice for someone who wants to pursue research in your field, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid of challenging complex problems, or species that are well known for not being seen, both can be quite rewarding.