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, several structured decision making (SDM) workshops were 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 non-breeding 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.
  • View the full report.


  • 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.
  • View the full report.


  • 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.
  • View the full report.


  • 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.
  • View the full report.


  • 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.
  • View the full report.


  • The broad participant base is well-established.
  • First protocol revision is completed based on results of 2012 habitat validation study; IWMM Monitoring Manual is correspondingly updated.
  • 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).
  • All participants transitioned to revised habitat monitoring protocol.
  • New website is launched with e-newsletter and technical blog.
  • Phase I of online database is released and includes registration, data entry, and project management features for IWMM users.
  • IWMM publishes local-level count models for waterfowl.
  • View the full report.


  • Publications produced on the migration simulation model and the first habitat validation study.
  • Online database launch is completed. 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.
  • Technical Report is prepared for Pilot Data (2010-2015).
  • Strategies are considered to make local scale decision support tools more widely available.
  • Potential applications of migration simulation model are explored with decision makers.
  • View the full report.


  • In January, IWMM staff and partners publish a manuscript presenting a tool to measure contribution of IWMM management units to migratory waterbird conservation efforts in eastern USFWS regions.
  • Data collection forms updated to better align with the IWMM/AKN database and facilitate data entry. Updated forms available HERE.
  • The IWMM Bird Species List updated to reflect changes to the AOU North American Checklist based on the 58th Supplement to the Checklist. Available HERE.
  • View the full report.


  • A new Project Coordinator is hired.
  • The IWMM mobile app (IMA) is completed using the Survey123 platform and released for use during the 2018-2019 non-breeding season.  View the Year 1 report.
  • Minor revisions are made to the IWMM protocol framework.
  • IWMM data from the 2010-2015 pilot period is assembled and archived in Servcat.
  • The IWMM Steering Committee shifts to a task-based approach for working teams and welcomes a new member from the Northeast region.