Supporting recovery of federally listed interior least tern (Sternula antillarum athalassos; tern) and piping plover (Charadrius melodus; plover) populations is a desirable goal in management of the Missouri River ecosystem. Many tools are implemented in support of this goal, including habitat management, annual monitoring, directed research, and threat mitigation. Similarly, many types of data can be used to make management decisions, evaluate system responses, and prioritize research and monitoring. The ecological importance of Missouri River recovery and the conservation status of terns and plovers place a premium on efficient and effective resource use. Efficiency is improved when a single data source informs multiple high-priority decisions, whereas effectiveness is improved when decisions are informed by reliable knowledge. Seldom will a single study design be optimal for addressing all data needs, making prioritization of needs essential. Data collection motivated by well-articulated objectives and priorities has many advantages over studies in which questions and priorities are determined retrospectively. Research and monitoring for terns and plovers have generated a wealth of data that can be interpreted in a variety of ways. The validity and strength of conclusions from analyses of these data is dependent on compatibility between the study design and the question being asked. We consider issues related to collection and interpretation of biological data, and discuss their utility for enhancing the role of science in management of Missouri River terns and plovers. A team of USGS scientists at Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center has been conducting tern and plover research on the Missouri River since 2005. The team has had many discussions about the importance of setting objectives, identifying priorities, and obtaining reliable information to answer pertinent questions about tern and plover management on this river system. The objectives of this presentation are to summarize those conversations and to share insights about concepts that could contribute to rigorous science support for management of this river system.
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USGS Numbered Series
Objectives, priorities, reliable knowledge, and science-based management of Missouri River interior least terns and piping plovers