|Research and Conservation of Wetland Ecosystems and Wildlife of the Amur River Basin,
February 2009 - Present
| The Amur Region of Far-Eastern Russia is a unique center of biodiversity where grasslands of the west, the broad-leafed forests to the south and the coniferous forests to the north meet. Along the Amur River, there are vast stretches of wetlands that provide critical nesting habitats for endangered species such as Oriental White Storks, Red-crowned cranes and White-naped cranes. In addition, these wetlands are important stopover areas for arctic birds which nest in the north and winter in the south. Unfortunately, this is also one of the most ecologically unsafe regions in Russia and many ecosystems have been greatly degraded and impacted by human activities. This is particularly true of the wetlands in the Amur River Basin. Dams have been constructed on several major tributaries of the Amur River, which has stopped the periodic and necessary flooding of wetlands. The region has also been amidst an over decade long drought, which has further exacerbated the situation. The lack of water in the wetlands have left them extremely vulnerable to fires that strike in late fall and early spring. The fires are started by farmers in adjacent fields as a way to clear the cropland of unnecessary brush. These fires enter into the wetlands and burn critical nesting habitats for cranes and storks and leave little cover for migratory birds.
Since February 2009, I have been working with Muraviovka Park for Sustainable Land Use to conserve and manage some fo the last remaining wetland habitat and its wildlife along the Amur River. The objectives of Muraviovka Park are to 1) protect critical wetland habitat (the Park contains some 15,000 acres of wetlands), 2) educate the public about the ecosystem and its threats, 3) increase the wild populations of endangered species through captive breeding and eventual release into the wild, and 4) provide a working example of sustainable land practices that minimize the impact on native ecosystems while maintaining a high level of productivity.
My main involvement in these efforts are to 1) conduct research that will guide decisions on effective management of the wetlands, 2) participate in and develop direct conservation initiatives, 3) increase public media and education programs, 4) fund-raising, and 5) enhance international attention and participation. Some of the projects I am currently conducting include the design and implementation of a long-term ecosystem monitoring program that notes population structure, abundance, phenology, and distribution of key species. This data, in addition to environmental data currently being collected at the park, will allow us to look at long-term trends occurring at the Park. I also act as a mentor and develop projects with a local graduate student studying the effects of fires on wetland ecology. Fires pose the most immediate, understandable and negative impacts on key endangered species in the wetlands and as a consequence, I have been active in programs that mitigate these affects such as; prescribed burning, the planting of trees, and active protection of nests/nesting areas from fires. In addition, I am attempting to strengthen the Park's ties with local nature agencies, universities, and media outlets. This has included the creation and implementation of joint projects, being hired as an adjunct professor at the Teacher's Training University in the nearby city of Blagoveshensk, and negotiating more media attention from regional news channels.
Muraviovka Park is a unique and much needed conservation center in Far-Eastern Russia. In this biodiverse region, the park acts as one of the only centers for environmental education and combating the negative impacts of human land use. To learn more about the Park click here.
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