The Ornithological Council is updating the Guidelines to the Use of Wild Birds in Research – and we need your help!

The Ornithological Council is planning a minor revision to the Guidelines to the Use of Wild Birds in Research. This foundational publication, now in its third edition, provides an in-depth guide to the animal welfare considerations when performing research involving wild birds, including ethical considerations and the legal framework that must be followed by researchers. Topics include investigator impact generally, collecting and trapping, marking, transport, housing and captive breeding, minor and major manipulative procedures, and euthanasia.

The last edition was published in 2010. The Ornithological Council is interested in compiling updated references from the last 10 years so we can include those in the next update. If you are aware of a methods paper relevant to a topic covered in the Guidelines, please submit the citation (and if you have it, a PDF of the paper or a link to it) to Laura Bies (laurabiesoc@gmail.com). Also submit papers that are not methods papers per se but assess the impact of the study methods.

We are also looking for volunteers to coordinate the literature reviews for each chapter. If you are interested in volunteering, contact Laura Bies at laurabiesoc@gmail.com.

The chapters in the Guidelines are:

  1. Introduction
  2. Impact of Investigator Presence
  3. Capture and Marking
  4. Transport of Wild Bird
  5. Captive Management
  6. Minor Manipulative Procedures
  7. Major Manipulative Procedures
  8. Scientific Collecting

The 2010 edition of Guidelines is available here.

The Ornithological Council weighs in on key science positions in U.S. government

The Ornithological Council provided input about some of the key science and technology positions in the U.S. Government, as part of an effort to highlight these roles for the new administration.

The Day One Project, an initiative of the Federation of American Scientists, is developing a list of 100 key existing and proposed leadership roles across the federal government where scientific expertise is most critical. The OC submitted several positions to Day One, highlighting the role these positions play in ensuring science-based decision-making. At the departmental level, the OC highlighted the Science Advisor to the Secretary of the Interior, which offers key science support to the Secretary of the Interior. We also highlighted positions within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey.

The OC submitted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director as a key position, given the position’s responsibility for applying scientific information to wildlife management and conservation decisions. We noted the importance of ensuring that the nominee for this position meets the statutory requirement to be knowledgeable in the principles of fisheries and wildlife management, through scientific education and experience. We also highlighted the Assistant Director for Science Applications, who works directly with, and reports directly to, the agency’s Director, helping to ensure that the director has the scientific information they need to make these key decisions.

The OC also submitted the USGS Director, noting that agency’s responsibility as the nation’s largest research agency devoted to providing science about natural resources, natural hazards, the health of our ecosystems and environment, and the impacts of climate and land-use change. We noted that during the Trump Administration, the USGS was criticized for denying climate change and preventing its scientists from speaking openly about it. Finally, we highlighted the USGS Chief Scientist position, noting that as one of the federal government’s leaders in basic research regarding our natural world, the USGS needs a top scientist who can support its career scientists and provide science-based, apolitical counsel to its Director.

Once the new administration is in place, Day One will track the administration’s progress on filling the 100 key roles it identifies.

OC nominates two ornithologists for new standing committee

The Ornithological Council nominated two ornithologists for a new standing committee on animal welfare. The Institute for Laboratory Animal Research issued a call to nominate experts for a new Standing Committee for the Care and Use of Animals in Research earlier this fall. The new committee will help foster the exchange of ideas and knowledge on how best to make any future updates to the Guide for the Care and Use of Animals in Research, a prominent guidance document for animal welfare.  The OC nominated Dr. William Bowerman and Dr. Rafael Rueda-Hernández for the new committee.

Dr. William Bowerman is a Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Toxicology and the Chair of the Department of Environmental Science and Toxicology at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is a world-renowned expert on studying environmental change through its impact on eagle populations, and a highly-regarded researcher, teacher, and leader in the scientific community.

Dr. Rafael Rueda-Hernández is a Postdoctoral Scholar of the Department of Evolutionary Biology at the Universidad Nacional Autònoma de México, Mexico City and a Senior Research Fellow with the University of California, Los Angeles. He has extensive experience in handling and caring of wild birds for research purposes, and is a highly-regarded ornithologist and leader in the scientific community in Mexico and the Neotropics.

The OC also separately contacted the Institute for Laboratory Animal Research, urging them to use this new standing committee as an opportunity to involve a subset of researchers that have been heretofore underrepresented by those involved with developing and publishing ILAR’s Guide to the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals – wildlife professionals. The Guide to the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals is widely applied to research conducted or funded by the federal government and is a suitable standard for biomedical research. However, it has little information relevant to wildlife research beyond general principles. It is crucial that scientists and researchers with experience working in the field are represented on the new committee and are able to offer their expertise and feedback on the committee tasks and deliberations.

Nominations are being accepted through Nov. 6. Learn more here.

September/October NewsBrief

The Ornithological Council is pleased to provide this bimonthly report covering activities from September and October 2020. 

The Ornithological Council seeks to

  • Ensure that the best ornithological science is incorporated into legislative, regulatory, and management decisions that affect birds;
  • Enhance the ability of ornithologists to pursue professional activities; and
  • Promote the influence of ornithology in public affairs. 

Our work focuses on animal welfare issues, permits, research funding, and other policies that affect ornithologists and ornithological societies. We greatly appreciate your support. Please contact our Executive Director with questions or concerns about this report or about any other matter of concern to your society or your society’s members.

In this time period, the Ornithological Council:

1. Submitted written comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regarding draft guidance on the definition of “field study” under the Animal Welfare Act.

2. Provided oral testimony during a virtual listening session regarding the new regulations governing birds not bred for research under the Animal Welfare Act, which USDA APHIS is in the process of developing. We also submitted longer written comments for the record after the listening session.

3. OC Executive Director Bies met with staff from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Migratory Bird office and the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center/Leetown Science Center to talk about issues of mutual concern.

4. Following up to the meeting with USFWS Migratory Bird program staff, we provided suggestions to USFWS staff on ways to streamline the permitting process and increase consistency among permitting processes and procedures across the USFWS regions.

5. OC Executive Director Bies received a demonstration of the new epermits system launched by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and provided feedback on the system to USFWS staff. Read more about the launch, including the USFWS press release quoting OC ED Bies here.

6. Posted articles and updates on the Ornithology Exchange regarding the newly released OC Import Guide (the completion of this revision was discussed in the July/August NewsBrief), the newly launched USFWS online permit system, a report on natural collections from the National Academy of Science, an update on the current status of the OC, downlisting of the red-cockaded woodpecker, the call for nominees for a new NAS Standing Committee for the Care and Use of Animals in Research, and the comments from the OC on draft field study guidanceand the regulation of birds under the AWA, as discussed above. All these updates, and more, are always available on the ‘News From the OC’ forum on Ornithological Exchange. Each time OC posts in the News from the OC forum, the link is sent to the OC society representatives to share with their networks. If your society would like these emails sent directly to someone else in your society, please let me know.

7. OC Executive Director Bies began reaching out to OC society social media contacts/communications managers to talk about ways to share information, jointly broaden our reach, and be more efficient in our communications. If your society social media contacts/communications managers haven’t talked to Bies yet, feel free to get in touch.

8. Provided individual assistance to 1 individual regarding permits. Name and society affiliations available upon request.

As always, we appreciate your support of the Ornithological Council!

OC offers perspectives on upcoming bird regulations

The Ornithological Council offered testimony during a virtual listening session held by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to gather information to assist in the development of regulations for birds not bred for use in research under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

The testimony offered by Laura Bies, Executive Director of the OC, noted that the additional regulations for birds not bred for research are not necessary, given the current level of regulations already in place for these birds and recommended that APHIS ensure that any additional burden on researchers is balanced by a commensurate increase in protection. Bies provided four recommendations for APHIS to consider as the rulemaking progresses:

  • Exclude wild birds studies in the wild from regulation
  • Exclude offspring of non-exempt birds that breed in captivity from regulation
  • Consult with experts regarding housing and husbandry standards
  • Exempt field surgery from regulation

OC also submitted more lengthy written testimony, providing additional details about our recommendations. Read more about the forthcoming regulations here and read OC’s comments here.