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Calling All Community Scientists! Do You Crave WAfLS?!

By Heather Hayes

Registration for the 2020 Western Asio flammeus Landscape Study (WAfLS) is around the corner!

a poster with a short eared owl re!"ads "seeking volunteers
Community scientists are invited to participate in any of the project’s eight western states! Poster Created by Wyoming Biodiversity Institute

Would you like to make a valuable impact as a community scientist? An impact so significant that it can have far-reaching effects influencing conservation management efforts for the survival of a species? If so, we invite you to participate in the largest survey of Short-eared Owls in the world! Learn about this important study and how you, a community scientist, can play a vital role in the driving force for Short-eared Owl conservation.

Why Do We Need WAfLS?

The Intermountain Bird Observatory and the Idaho Bird Conservation Partnership operate a community-scientist-based survey for Short-eared Owls in Idaho that extends through partners across eight western states.

Traditional survey data has indicated that Short-eared Owl populations have declined by more than 60% in the last 40 years.

The National Audubon Climate Initiative has rated the Short-eared Owl as “Climate Endangered”, and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game has identified the Species as a “Species of Greatest Conservation Need“. We have the opportunity to influence and focus conservation and restoration activities for this species, but only if we have solid data. We have developed this survey to address this gap.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game considers the Short-eared Owl a species of Greatest Conservation Need. Photo by Zak Pohlen

Past years’ results have directly influenced the Idaho State Wildlife Action Plan, resulted in a scientific publication, multiple scientific presentations (Idaho and International Conferences), and direct outreach and education opportunities. Our success also fueled the expansion of this study west-wide to now include a total of eight western states and community scientist participation has swelled to over 800 surveyors!

What Is the Best Time for WAfLS?

The survey requires two 1.5-hour visits, each occurring in a separate 3-week window (March, April, and May). The timing for a given route is dependent upon elevation. It is a road-based survey (8 – 11 points along a secondary road, separated by 1/2 mile) that is completed starting 100 minutes before darkness and finishing 10 minutes before darkness. The survey timing is set to coincide with the Short-eared Owls elaborate courtship displays. Check out the awesome video from our co-organizer Neil Paprocki (Hawkwatch International alum) in Utah!

Where Can You Get More WAfLS?

Like us on Facebook at “Project WAfLS” for the latest updates


This article is part of our 2019 end of the year newsletter! View the full newsletter here, or click “older posts” below to read the next article.