From Idea to Implementation

The idea for an integrated waterbird management and monitoring program arose organically among managers and scientists who recognized several needs for the effective conservation of waterbirds that migrate long distances. These included a structured process for decision-making useful to multiple stakeholders; a standardized monitoring approach across the landscape; and management of wetland habitats for guilds of waterbirds that is integrated, coordinated and optimized given multiple objectives. To explicitly identify and frame decisions about habitat management for waterbird populations at multiple spatial scales, a series of structured decision making workshops was held between 2007 and 2009. These workshops brought together a diverse group of conservation partners, including federal and state agencies and NGOs, and gave rise to an integrated program initially targeting management and monitoring of nonbreeding waterbirds in the Mississippi and Atlantic flyways.

IWMM Development Timeline


  • Idea for IWMM originates through a series of workshops focused on methods to inform decisions about managing local wetlands, allocating regional resources and ensuring strategic habitat conservation at the flyway scale.


  • A Science Team is formed to prioritize information needs, facilitate tasks and direct the project.
  • Sub-teams are formed to develop modeling approaches, monitoring metrics and monitoring protocols, and to address communications needs.


  • Pilot phase of monitoring begins with distribution of initial versions of habitat and population monitoring protocols to a network of participants located throughout the two flyways.
  • Participants are given a distributed Access database for data entry and storage.
  • A Science Coordinator and seasonal waterbird technicians are hired.
  • A continental scale model of waterbird migration based on energetic needs of birds is drafted.


  • Sub teams work with monitoring data to revise protocols and inform development of decision support tools.
  • The first habitat validation study occurs on selected wetlands enrolled in IWMM in the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast.


  • Informal decision support tools for the Access Database to summarize Bird Use Days (BUDS) and Migration Curves are released.
  • Sub teams work to more formally link monitoring data with management decisions, using monitoring data in conjunction with predictive models to identify most effective habitat management strategies to undertake at local level.
  • A Project Coordinator is hired.


  • Decision support models are developed for two National Wildlife Refuges, Clarence Cannon and Mattamuskeet, to help guide management of multiple wetlands to maximize habitat use by multiple guilds of waterbirds.
  • Work begins to develop a National Protocol Framework to guide monitoring by the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS).
  • IWMM partners with Point Blue Conservation Science to develop a centralized, online database as a node of the Avian Knowledge Network.
  • Work begins to validate the migration simulation model.
  • IWMM is adopted by the Natural Resource Program Center in the Inventory and Monitoring (I&M) branch of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
  • Monitoring protocols are peer-reviewed.
  • The second habitat validation study occurs on selected wetlands enrolled in IWMM in the Midwest.


  • The broad participant base is well-established.
  • IWMM completes first protocol revision based on results of 2012 habitat validation study and updates IWMM Monitoring Manual.
  • The National Protocol Framework is approved by I&M.
  • A part-time Communications Specialist is hired to help address specific communications needs (for 1 year).
  • IWMM participants transitioned to revised habitat monitoring protocol.
  • IWMM launches new website with e-newsletter and technical blog.
  • IWMM launches online database through phased rollout. Phase I includes registration, data entry and project management for IWMM users.
  • IWMM publication local-level count models for waterfowl.


    • IWMM publications on the migration simulation model and the first habitat validation study.
    • IWMM completes online database launch. Phase 2 includes reporting tools and download functions.
    • A Spatial Ecologist is hired at the Natural Resource Program Center and tasks include IWMM science needs.
    • IWMM expands beyond the eastern US, with individual NWRs implementing the program in the Pacific, Southwest and Mountain Prairie regions. (USFWS regions 1, 2 and 6).
    • Multiple refuges are using the IWMM National Protocol Framework to develop site specific monitoring protocols.
    • IWMM Technical Report prepared for Pilot Data, 2010-2014.
    • IWMM exploring strategies to make local scale decision support tools more widely available.
    • IWMM exploring potential applications of migration simulation model with decision makers.