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  • Program -- The California Gnatcatcher Story

Program -- The California Gnatcatcher Story

  • 12 Apr 2021
  • 7:30 PM - 9:00 PM
  • via Zoom

Watch for email with Zoom link; note special 7:30 start time.

Speaker: Jon Atwood

The California Gnatcatcher Story

In the 1990’s, the most publicized debate over the US Endangered Species Act concerned protections for the Northern Spotted Owl, with timber companies and loggers pitted against owls living in stands of old forest located mainly on National Forest lands. Yet there was also a concurrent argument over proposed listing of the coastal California Gnatcatcher. Unlike the owl, this small gray songbird occurs on some of the country’s most expensive private real estate, introducing a very different dynamic to the Endangered Species Act debate. This presentation will explore the background of this contentious issue, including how Atwood’s seemingly esoteric study of gnatcatcher taxonomy turned into a conservation discussion that continues to this day. Has protection of the California Gnatcatcher catalyzed a new way of accomplishing the goals of the Endangered Species Act?

Jon Atwood is Director of Bird Conservation at Mass Audubon in Lincoln, Massachusetts. He has been a practicing ornithologist and conservation biologist for 40 years, specializing in integrating behavioral studies of rare and endangered bird species with habitat conservation planning. After completing his Master’s and Doctoral degrees in southern California, he moved to the East coast in 1986. While working at Manomet Bird Observatory (now “Manomet”) during the early 1990’s he collaborated in the analysis of the first 30 years of Manomet’s landbird banding effort, spearheaded federal protection of the California Gnatcatcher under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, led a long-term study of factors affecting Least Tern colony site selection, and contributed to early studies of Bicknell’s Thrush in New England. From 1998-2011 he directed the Conservation Biology Program at Antioch University, New England, taught classes in Ornithology, Ecological Research Design, and GIS, and mentored over 70 graduate students working on various wildlife studies. During 2011-2013 he was Science Director at Biodiversity Research Institute in southern Maine. He has worked for Mass Audubon since 2014.