Published: Sept. 26, 2022

Sara publicationSara Padula, first year PhD student in the lab, has published her undergraduate research in Wader Study entitled Kiawah and Seabrook islands are a critical site for the rufa Red Knot. The rufa Red Knot is a long distance migratory shorebird that has experienced a population decline of over 85% in recent decades. They migrate along the Atlantic Flyway and utilize numerous stopover sites during their journey, the most well-known site being Delaware Bay. Much of the migratory research on Red Knots has focused on this one location, so the extent to which the rufa population utilizes other stopover sites along the east coast was mostly unknown. Sara, her co-author Maggie Pelton, and colleagues addressed this knowledge gap by investigating the importance of Kiawah and Seabrook Islands, South Carolina as a stopover site for rufa Red Knots. They performed on-the-ground surveys between 19 February and 20 May 2021 to record the occurrence and proportion of individually marked knots, as well as geolocators deployed on knots. Using a superpopulation model, they estimated a minimum passage population of 17,247 knots (95% CI: 13,548-22,099; ~41% of the total rufa knot population) and an average stopover duration of 47 days (95% CI: 40.1-54.8). Additionally, their geolocator results showed that knots using Kiawah and Seabrook islands can bypass Delaware Bay and fly directly to Canada -- indicating that this habitat provides ample resources for the knots to complete their migration. Overall, their results show that Kiawah and Seabrook islands should be recognized as critical sites in the knot network and, therefore, a conservation priority. The threats facing this site, such as prey depletion, anthropogenic disturbance, and sea level rise, require immediate attention. Luckily, Sara's data has already been used to comment on the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service’s Critical Habitat Designation for the rufa red knot. Press release can be found here!