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Florida’s Birds, Lakes, and Volunteers

This Black-necked stilt is a rare aquatic bird species counted during the LAKEWATCH aquatic bird surveys. Credit: Lawrence Korhnak

Florida LAKEWATCH is a citizen volunteer lake monitoring program that facilitates “hands-on” citizen participation in the management of Florida waters. Collectively, volunteers have gathered accurate water quality data on over 2,700 aquatic systems, including wetlands, dune lakes, estuaries, streams/rivers, and springs in 57 out the 67 counties in Florida.

The importance of their work can not be emphasized enough, as volunteers are the most practical way to collect information on birds that rely on Florida lakes. They are the core of the LAKEWATCH initiative in Florida and other programs for citizen scientists. Citizen volunteers can have more comprehensive and intimate knowledge of these lake systems than biologists, who only visit lakes once or twice a year. 

Least bitterns. Credit: Mark Hoyer

The planning of lake resources can be extremely complex, and when you consider that birds fly, this management challenge becomes even more complicated. In order for aquatic birds to complete their life cycles, they need a diverse range of resources and can migrate from lake to lake to find the environment that best suits their needs. Management techniques, such as invasive aquatic plant nutrient control and invasion removal can increase, decrease, or have little or no effect on an individual aquatic bird species, adding to the difficulty of predicting the effects of resource management activities.

The data collected through citizen science only contributes to our understanding of the complex interactions between birds and lakes. Please consider contacting LAKEWATCH if you think that you might be interested in joining other birders across Florida to engage in the citizen science project and better understand birds, lakes and their interactions. 

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