Press Releases

Newly released Avian Data Monitoring Portal available to public and researchers

BATON ROUGE, La. (Jan. 11, 2024) – A newly released Avian Data Monitoring Portal brings together more than a decade of aerial survey photos along the northern Gulf of Mexico to provide an easily searchable database for researchers, natural resource managers, and the public.

Found at, the portal will help coastal managers, coastal restoration engineers, researchers, and others not only see coastal nesting bird distributions, but also inform future restoration efforts.

In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon explosion resulted in the largest oil spill in United States history, discharging millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. In the wake of the spill and subsequent settlements, federal and state agencies were tasked with assessing and restoring damage. Part of that work involved analyzing and quantifying injuries to bird habitats and populations along the northern Gulf of Mexico. In response to the oil spill, resource managers needed an effective way to assess bird nesting populations on restored habitats.

“Louisiana and the broader northern Gulf of Mexico represents critical habitats for a host of colonial nesting birds and we needed to have a tool set up to both inform us about restoration progress and allow us to convey that information to the public,” said Jon Wiebe, program manager of the restoration program at Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries. The teamwork of state, federal, private and non-profit organizations, as well as input from stakeholders on how they would like to see information made accessible, all came together in a tool that is not only applicable today but will be of great value into the future, he said.

“When developing the dashboard, we felt it was really important to make the information accessible to everyone from the child writing a report on Queen Bess Island to peer-reviewed research,” Wiebe said. “There are millions of dollars in restoration work being done, and we’re seeing results. The dashboard will allow us to easily convey that progress to anyone.”

As part of the tool development, The Water Institute worked with the Deepwater Horizon Louisiana Trustee Implementation Group (TIG), the Regionwide TIG, and other partners to create the Avian Data Monitoring Portal. This portal is an easy-to-use web-based search engine that allows researchers, restoration managers and the public to search by year, region, state, colony, species, and watershed to provide results on total birds or total nests.

“The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service recognizes the many benefits of making this user-friendly database available to managers, scientists, and interested members of the public,” said Dave Hewitt, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist. “This expansive data set on Gulf Coast nesting waterbirds has the potential for creating a higher level of awareness of the challenges faced by these birds, and it can lead to better decisions by wildlife biologists, managers and other stakeholders.”

The portal is based on aerial survey data collected by Colibri Ecological Consulting, a partner with the Deepwater Horizon Regionwide TIG. Aerial surveys began in 2010, resulting in seven years of survey data capturing the Louisiana coast and colonial waterbird nesting sites across the northern Gulf of Mexico. This effort resulted in more than 49,000 photographs that were “dotted” by Colibri to quantify species and nests across the survey area.

“We started with multiple hard drives full of high-resolution photographs taken over many years. It took a lot of modern computing capacity to database and geo-reference those images as well as hours and hours of manual effort for some steps in the data processing,” said Tim Carruthers, director of coastal ecology at The Water Institute. “Each challenge required new thinking and often new skill sets as we worked towards maximum utility and availability of this data.”

The Water Institute, supported by the Regionwide TIG, compiled these photographs and the associated dotting data into a web-based, geospatially enabled portal. The Avian Data Monitoring Portal links Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri) Enterprise Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software with a Web Mapping Service (WMS), and the aerial survey photo database to create a dashboard that enables navigation of the data to explore total nests and birds observed over various geographical areas and time scales.

“As we develop transformative, large-scale projects to restore the habitats and ecosystems in Louisiana devastated by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, this innovative tool will allow us to make informed decisions that contribute to the long-term health of our coast,” said CPRA Chairman Bren Haase. “By utilizing the data-driven insights provided by the portal, we are ensuring that our restoration projects are not only effective, but also aligned with the intricate needs of our coastal habitats.”

The work fulfills the need expressed by Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority’s (CPRA) Statement of Need titled “Deepwater Horizon Regionwide Trustee Implementation Group Monitoring and Adaptive Management Activity Implementation Plan: Colonial Waterbird Monitoring.”

Learn more about the project here from the Deepwater Horizon Louisiana Trustee Implementation Group (TIG) and the Regionwide TIG.