• Jer Big Red
Australasian Shorebird Conference, 2018

In October 2018, a Fuller Lab team made up of Rich, post-doc Brad Woodworth, PhD student Micha Jackson and masters student Mint Ren headed to Hobart to attend the 2018 Australasian Shorebird Conference. This biannual event is a key knowledge exchange and networking opportunity for the hard-working shorebird researchers and conservationists of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAAF). Rich kicked off the conference with a keynote address, where he reflected on the groundbreaking 7th Australasian Shorebird Conference, also held in Hobart in 2009, a meeting where the shorebird community solidified concerns about suspected shorebird population declines. Nearly a decade later, our worst fears have been realised for a number of species that have exhibited precipitous declines. But unprecedented action has also been taken in response to clear evidence that habitat loss in the Yellow Sea is a key driver of the shorebird crisis. The profile of shorebirds and the rapid disappearance of many intertidal refuelling stations along their migration route has been raised enormously, and the international community galvanised.

In 2018 alone, China has announced sweeping new policies to curb intertidal reclamation, China and the Republic of Korea have begun the World Heritage listing process for remaining Yellow Sea intertidal flats, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has joined the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership. But our work is far from done. Rich highlighted the urgent need to better understand the threat that hunting poses to our region’s shorebirds; the imperative to integrate artificial habitat management into shorebird conservation; the breakthrough in global intertidal habitat mapping that will allow us to understand the dynamics of these critical habitats like never before; and the importance of improving the accessibility of monitoring data to maintain current population estimates and trends. Later in the conference, Micha presented her research on shorebirds’ use of artificial habitats throughout the EAAF, which is highlighting the critical importance of managing working coastal wetlands (such as aquaculture, salt production and port sites) in conjunction with maintaining intertidal habitat, particularly in heavily developed regions. And last but not least, Brad presented the very last talk of the conference – his work on shorebird trends in the Great Sandy Strait region of Queensland, which highlights the importance of understanding local change and drivers to support effective management.

The conference also provided wonderful networking and birding events, such as the Bruny Island Bird Festival (where Micha caught up with all twelve of Tasmania’s endemic bird species), the launch of the stunning Overwintering Exhibition at the lovely Moonah Arts Centre, and local viewing of the mega rarity: Hudsonian Godwit!

Many thanks go to the organisers and we look forward to finding out where the 2020 conference will bring us together again! Micha’s attendance at the conference was generously supported by a Stuart Leslie Conference Award/BirdLife Australia.

Rich presenting the keynote at the 2018 Australasian Shorebird Conference in Hobart.

Micha at the entrance to the 2018 ASC at the University of Tasmania.

Tasmanian Native-hen, one of twelve endemic bird species in Tasmania.