TERN Citizen Science

Photo: Seth Patterson

TERN Citizen Science

The Texas Estuarine Resource Network or TERN is a community-based citizen science program promoting bird monitoring and conservation, managed by the Audubon Texas Coastal Program. The TERN program continues Audubon’s legacy of protecting colonial waterbirds by engaging citizens in the community to gather valuable data about bird populations in foraging grounds and rookery habitats. The data collected through citizen science programs can be incorporated into management and conservation plans, and influence local, state and federal policy development.

TERN is seeking volunteers to help research two main topics: colonial waterbird rookery monitoring and waterbird foraging habitat monitoring. Rookery islands cannot exist without adequate foraging habitat and foraging habitat quality can have an effect on the production of chicks in nearby rookeries. Through our free training program volunteers will learn how to identify local species of colonial water birds, visit rookery island and wetland foraging grounds, learn current scientific survey protocols and data collections, and will assist researchers with conducting these surveys by boat and by land. TERN volunteers will be offered educational workshops, opportunities to participate in habitat restoration, and learn more about local wildlife and natural resources of the Texas Coast. TERN participants will also be kept up to date on partner organizations’ efforts and upcoming activities. Other components of TERN include community outreach through programs at schools, senior living facilities, and events, and actively restoring rookery islands through growing and planting native shrubs for nesting birds, removing invasive species, and shoreline protection. 

TERN Volunteer Opportunities

Citizen Science Waterbird Monitoring

This community-based citizen science program promotes bird monitoring and conservation for the community, but offers valuable data for agencies and organizations working to protect birds and bird habitats.  Each set of data collected, once linked to the monitoring site, becomes the eyes and ears for wildlife professionals to evaluate the health and function of the habitat based on the numbers of birds, bird behaviors, and sometimes reveals if these habitats need special attention. Monitoring birds is fun, convenient, and incredibly easy through this specially designed program which trains volunteers in protocols and bird identifications and develops skills at any level of previous experience through a supportive network of Audubon staff, coastal wardens, and longtime nature enthusiasts.

Monitoring Field Days

The best way to become a better birder is to get outside and bird with experienced birders! We organize fieldtrips with small groups of birders to conduct bird monitoring in various locations. Make friends, gain experience, have fun, and collect valuable data that will contribute to real conservation for birds and bird habitats.

Rookery Island Restoration Workdays

Habitat management is plays a huge part in successful breeding season and restoration workdays offer opportunities to clean up trash, apply ant bait, remove invasive species, and plant beneficial nesting plants.

Native Plant Nursery

Native shrubs and plants are critical nesting habitat for colonial waterbirds on Rookery Islands. There is a high rate of die-off due to abundant use during nesting season and rough environmental conditions and these plants need to be replanted and replenished each year. This program grows native trees, shrubs, and other plants used by nesting birds by cutting, are grown and planted on these rookery islands in the fall to be ready for use in the next spring nesting season.

TERN for Schools

Early birders get the worm and we start them young! K-12th grade programs get students out of the classroom and viewing life through binoculars with birding 101, bird biology, and field monitoring experience. Students make real life connections between the environment they live in and how they can positively or negatively impact the ecosystems with introductions to local plants and wildlife, watershed modules, trash awareness, and fieldtrips focused on natural areas near their homes and schools.

TERN for Seniors

You are never too old to learn something new and seniors citizens are some of our best pupils! Engaging seniors citizens in senior living facilities through educational workshops, fun environmental activities, bird surveys, fieldtrips, and growing native shrubs for rookery islands offers unique events for the centers and the community.

Partnerships and Events

Many of our partners are working to protect or conserve wildlife and wildlife habitats and we show our support in a big way. TERN volunteers pitch in on partner workdays, bird surveys, special events, and outreach booths and festivities and learn about these local organizations and how their efforts are making our world a better place. 

For more information contact TERN@audubon.org.

Ready to get involved?

Download the forms below and, once completed, email them to TERN@audubon.org.

TERN Survey Sites

How you can help, right now