Sea Islands Shorebird Festival
May 11th & May 12th, 2023
About the festival
The first Sea Islands Shorebird Festival is a 2-day event hosted and organized by local municipalities, governmental agencies, volunteer groups, and non-profit organizations working on coastal bird conservation and education. The festival celebrates the critically important sites of Seabrook and Kiawah Island for shorebirds, notably for the federally threatened Red Knot, for which these islands play a crucial role during their northern migration.
The festival aims to celebrate shorebirds and the islands they depend on, educate community members and visitors, and raise awareness to protect these magnificent birds and places.
SPEAKERS & TRIP LEADERS
Coastal Bird Program Coordinator
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
Felicia Sanders has been working for 30 years on conservation efforts for a wide diversity of bird species. She joined the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources in 2001 and leads South Carolina’s Seabird and Shorebird Projects. Her primary tasks are promoting conservation of important sites for nesting and migrating coastal birds, surveying seabirds and shorebirds, and partnering with universities to research their life histories. She is a coauthor on numerous scientific publications and has traveled to the Arctic five times to participate in shorebird research projects. Felicia went to graduate school at Clemson University, receiving a master’s degree in Biology. Last year she was awarded the Biologist of the Year by the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, whose members include 15 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Clock Conservation Multimedia
Benjamin is a biologist, photographer, videographer, writer and presenter. He documents organisms and their habitats in effort to help conserve wild places. He believes that beautiful imagery of nature can be a powerful tool to educate, inspire and make a positive change for the conservation of habitat and biodiversity. He films, photographs, and records audio for nature print media and the web. He is currently working on documentary film projects that share the stories of biologists studying long distance migrant shorebirds- highlighting the importance of strategic stopover habitats on migration routes between the neotropics and the arctic. To view some of his work, visit www.benjaminclock.com.
South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
Janet Thibault is a Wildlife Biologist with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Seabird and Shorebird Program. She received a Master's degree in Wildlife Biology from Clemson University in 2009- studying nesting American Oystercatcher in the Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge. Before her graduate studies, she participated in a variety of avian conservation and research projects throughout the United States. Past projects include working with nesting seabirds in Massachusetts, Sandhill Crane migration in Nebraska, native honeycreepers in Hawaii, and puffins nesting in Alaska. The focus of her current position is seabird and shorebird conservation along the coast of South Carolina.
University of Massachusetts- Amherst
Maina Handmaker is a PhD Student in the Senner Lab in the Environmental Conservation Department at University of Massachusetts Amherst seeking to better understand how long-distance migratory birds might respond to environmental change. In close collaboration with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Maina is currently studying the movements of Whimbrels that use the recently discovered nocturnal roost on Deveaux Bank during their migratory stopover in South Carolina. Her research uses GPS tracking data to uncover clues about how Whimbrels select foraging and roosting sites, and how conservation efforts can be targeted to turn the tide for this declining population.
Georgia Bight Shorebird Conservation Initiative Director
Abby Sterling works for Manomet, a non-profit based in Massachusetts that uses science and partnerships to address conservation challenges throughout the hemisphere. She is the director of Manomet’s Georgia Bight Shorebird Conservation Initiative, which focuses on sustaining shorebird populations within the Atlantic Flyway by increasing attention to the Southeast. By working with the stakeholders and partners actively involved in shorebird conservation, identifying research and management objectives, building education and outreach efforts, and increasing capacity, she hopes to achieve measurable progress for shorebird conservation along the South Carolina, Georgia and Northern Florida coasts. Abby earned her doctorate from the University of Georgia, where she studied how habitat and landscape features influence beach nesting shorebirds and chick survival. Prior to working on her degree, she lived on Little St. Simons Island, where she worked as a naturalist guide and assisted on a variety of environmental projects. She currently lives in Brunswick with her husband, her adorable new son, and her dog.
Assistant Wildlife Biologist
Town of Kiawah
Aaron has been the Assistant Wildlife Biologist for the Town of Kiawah Island since 2008. He grew up in Oswego, IL (a far suburb of Chicago) and graduated with a B.S. in Zoology from Southern Illinois University in 2000. Aaron went on to attend Southeast Missouri State University where he received an M.S. in Wildlife Biology in 2005. In graduate school, he studied the wintering ecology of Yellow Rails in coastal Texas. This is where he got his first exposure to bird banding and was fascinated with being able to study and observe the birds in such fine detail. His primary research interest is in ornithology with a special focus on avian ecology and management, passerine migration ecology, and secretive marshbird ecology. Aaron currently manages the largest bird banding station in the southeast focusing on fall migration, wintering marsh sparrows, Painted Buntings, and Wilson’s Plovers.
Endangered Species Biologist
U.S Fish & Wildlife Service
Melissa Chaplin is an Endangered Species Biologist and the Recovery Team Lead with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s South Carolina Field Office located in Charleston, South Carolina. She has been with the agency for 20 years and focuses on the recovery of federally-listed beach-dependent species such as Piping Plovers, Red Knots and Loggerhead Sea Turtles. Her primary responsibilities include leading the SC Field Office's Recovery Program, co-leading the Service’s Southeast Region recovery efforts for the Piping Plover and Red Knot, reviewing and commenting on shoreline stabilization projects (i.e. beach renourishment, inlet relocation), working with beach communities to minimize disturbance to shorebirds, and overseeing the sea turtle and shorebird project on Bulls Island in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. The majority of her field work involves shorebird diet studies, and sea turtle and shorebird nesting surveys on Bulls Island. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Biology from Clemson University and her Master’s degree in Environmental Studies from the College of Charleston.
Natural History Interpretation Coordinator
Charleston County Parks
Keith is the Natural History Interpretation Coordinator for Charleston County Parks where he has worked for 16 years. His career as a naturalist began in Georgia in the 1990’s where he managed nature centers near Brunswick and on St. Simon’s Island. Since earning a Master’s degree in Environmental Studies at the College of Charleston with emphasis in marine science (2005), Keith has continued to pursue his passion for environmental education/interpretation by leading public and custom programs for Charleston area residents and visitors. As the Charleston host site coordinator for SC’s Master Naturalist Program, he has certified nearly 400 people as Master Naturalists.
Birding has been a focus throughout Keith’s career. He is a statewide eBird data reviewer for South Carolina and currently serves as chair of the South Carolina Bird Records Committee. He also serves on the executive board of the Lowcountry Biodiversity Foundation, a local non-profit that seeks to provide resources and education about the incredible diversity of life in this region. Through this foundation he has co-authored two field guides on insects and spiders in South Carolina.
Coastal Program Manager
South Carolina Audubon
Nolan Schillerstrom has been working in South Carolina since 2014 to make our state a safer place for shorebirds and seabirds while improving the quality of life for coastal residents. His work with Audubon South Carolina involves both stewardship and resilience, and anything coastal bird-related! He has a master's degree in environmental & sustainability studies from the College of Charleston, and a B.S. in biology and environmental studies from Cornell College in Iowa. He is also a woodworker and Crossfit coach in his free time!
Red Knot Technician
Nathaniel is a young wildlife biologist with his origins based in North Carolina. His career started in the mountains of western North Carolina where he studied at Lees McRae College until 2018. Since his graduation he’s been traveling around working on various projects in the field which include but aren’t limited to: Breeding ecology and egg patterning of King Rails, breeding ecology and territorial mapping of Black-capped Vireos, and breeding ecology/home range use of Eastern Whip-poor-wills. Nathaniel’s also spent a significant amount of time on Kiawah Island while working at the banding station for two seasons and in his current position with Manomet, resighting Red Knots. Personal interests within the ornithological world include understanding molt strategies and the general biology and life history of nightjars.
Picture credit: Pamela Cohen- 1 Andy Johnson- 2 Luke Eberhart-Phillips- 3 Kaitlyn Hackathorn- 4