How long until the next bird? Analysis of methodology in long-term monitoring in avian cloud forest communities

In tropical cloud forests, avian communities are poorly understood in comparison to their Northern Hemisphere counterparts for many historic and systemic reasons. To rectify this disparity, it is vital that today’s design (or revision) of research programs intentionally optimizes effort while maximizing diversity detection. I will propose a straightforward, easily adaptable model that long-term research stations can employ to achieve this aim. Since 2006, Operational Wallacea (Opwall) has conducted biodiversity research in the cloud forests of Cusuco National Park, Honduras. Opwall implements tropical conservation research through recruitment of ecologists to conduct fieldwork in tandem with teaching ecological surveying techniques to secondary and university students exploring potential future careers as  scientists. While Opwall uses constant-effort detection methods for point counts and mist-netting, the nature of Opwall’s structure results in seasonal staff turnover and variability in team size. To assess the quality of detections and the role of sampling effort, I compiled avian species accumulation curves by year and method (point count, mist nets) across multi-year datasets where effort is considered the number of sampling opportunities. From here, I was able to determine the research team’s overall effectiveness in detecting species within the park. Additionally, I developed a model which yields how much additional effort is required throughout the season to annually relocate species as the season progresses. These analyses can be used to inform ongoing long-term research programs across ecosystems.