Capstone 2022:
Evaluation of Multi-level Governance on Shorebird Management and Conservation in Puget Sound

Project Description
Graduate students and advisors at UW SMEA are working with Audubon Washington to engage a diverse group of stakeholders involved in conservation and management projects within migratory shorebird habitat of the Puget Sound region. As part of their capstone project, student researchers will conduct qualitative interviews with stakeholders to learn more about land management plans and projects across multiple levels of governance (subnational, national, and intranational). Washington’s Puget Sound region is part of the Pacific Americas Flyway, which spans vertically across 120 degrees of latitude from Alaska to Patagonia. Thousands of shorebirds migrate annually across this route back and forth, since they typically breed in the high Arctic and boreal regions and then spend most of the northern hemisphere winter in Central and South America. As they migrate in between these two regions, they require stopping sites to rest, feed, and refuel. The Puget Sound region is one such area that provides critically important habitat to support migratory shorebirds that travel between breeding and non-breeding areas. The scope of this study will focus on the Skagit Bay and Stillaguamish River delta, both of which are designated as a Site of Regional Importance under the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network ( The information collected for this project has the potential to provide insights into the types of strategies that are implemented for shorebird habitat management, increase awareness and understanding of shorebird conservation agreements, and help identify and understand barriers to awareness, integration, and further implementation. Furthermore, this project can help provide a potential template for other regions along the Pacific Flyway to identify strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities within the governance for the conservation of migratory shorebird populations in their respective areas.

Graduate student researchers: Molly Daly and Elley Donnelly (School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, University of Washington)

Principal Investigator: Eduardo Gallo-Cajiao, PhD. (Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Washington)

Faculty advisor: Nives Dolsak, PhD. (Professor and Director, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, University of Washington)

Community Partner: Trina Bayard, PhD. Audubon Washington

Background Information
Migratory shorebirds are a group of birds that rely heavily on coastal wetlands and their populations have experienced severe declines. Consequently, their management requires strategies across multiple political jurisdictions as their migratory routes often traverse long distances spanning the northern and southern hemispheres. Within this context, there have been several institutional arrangements developed with a focus on shorebird management and conservation, each one with a scope at a specific level of governance (subnational, national, or intranational). However, it remains unclear whether management strategies and practices are in cohesion with multilevel conservation agreements, and hence, contribute to the conservation of migratory shorebird populations.

Specific objectives for this project include the following:

Objective 1: Understand stakeholder awareness/familiarity with estuary habitat management strategies.
Objective 2: Identify the ways in which strategies are referenced in the stakeholders' management plans.
Objective 3: Understand on-the-ground actions and management practices for migratory shorebird conservation in Puget Sound.
Objective 4: Identify opportunities and barriers to estuary habitat conservation.

Cumulatively, these findings can be used to assess the implementation of conservation and management strategies, and provide insights for identifying barriers and opportunities for implementation. The analysis determines relative successes and failures in policy implementation and can be used as a template for other regions along the Pacific Flyway to identify strengths and weaknesses in the governance for conserving migratory shorebird populations in their respective areas.

This project has received financial support from the David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship Program, which is administered by the Society for Conservation Biology and funded by the Cedar Tree Foundation.

Student Researchers
Elley Donnelly
BS, Government, U.S. Coast Guard Academy
MMA candidate, University of Washington's School of Marine and Environmental Affairs
After graduation from the Coast Guard Academy, Elley reported to USCGC ALEX HALEY (WMEC-39) in Kodiak, Alaska. She served as a Deck Watch Officer before transferring over to USCG Base Kodiak. One of CGC ALEX HALEY's primary missions was international and domestic fisheries enforcement, which solidified Elley’s interest in marine affairs. She is interested in studying international fisheries regulation and enforcement, international marine resource management efforts, and coastal zone management.

Molly Daly
BS, Environmental Policy, Oceanography Minor, Humboldt State University
MMA candidate, University of Washington's School of Marine and Environmental Affairs
By studying the ocean and environmental policy, Molly sought to better understand issues surrounding coastal communities, environmental conflicts, resource management, and mitigation. Molly has worked in sustainability, including reducing natural resource consumption and improving the resilience of the local community, ecotourism and educational services. She hopes to continue to reduce human impacts on the environment through innovative and equitable solutions that meet community needs.




Public scholarship