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Dr. Katharine Parsons

Dr. Katharine Parsons – Piping Plover Protection in Massachusetts: Recovering Populations and Facing Climate Change

Begun in 1987, Mass Audubon’s Coastal Waterbird Program (CWP) annually monitors Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus) nesting activity and protects habitat at 195 beach sites along 260 km of Massachusetts’ coastline.  Nesting at these locations are approximately 220 pairs of plovers—a third of the Massachusetts population listed as “threatened” under state and federal endangered species laws.  The CWP has investigated occurring and predicted climate change impacts to beach nesting Piping Plovers including rates of nest overwash.  In addition, we have evaluated the impact of beach stabilization practices such as renourishment and beach re-vegetation on brood range and overall nesting success.  Very little information is available to assist in guiding these practices with regard to optimizing habitat for plovers.  As coastal conditions worsen from climate change effects, the stakes will increase for both protecting the built environment and providing beach habitat for endangered wildlife.

Katharine Parsons, Ph.D., Director, Coastal Waterbird Program, Mass Audubon, received her Bachelor’s degree from Smith College and Ph.D. in Ecology from Rutgers University.  She has 35 years of experience in coastal waterbird research, management and policy in the northeast.  Since 2011, Dr. Parsons has directed Mass Audubon’s Coastal Waterbird Program which works with coastal communities throughout Massachusetts to protect rare birds and their habitats. Her research has been published in over 45 peer-reviewed scientific publications. She is past-President of the Waterbird Society. In addition, Dr. Parsons is a Lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design where she has taught courses in landscape ecology, and currently teaches a seminar in coastal ecology entitled Changing Natural and Built Coastal Environments.  over 45 peer-reviewed scientific publications. She is past-President of the Waterbird Society. In addition, Dr. Parsons is a Lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design where she has taught courses in landscape ecology, and currently teaches a seminar in coastal ecology entitled Changing Natural and Built Coastal Environments.

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