The Convention’s CEPA Programme


Shorebird Education Australia - Communication Strategy

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Shorebird Education Australia - Communication Strategy 2002



The Wetlands Centre Australia



Coordinator: Helen Aitchison




Under the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran, 1971) an Outreach Programme 1999-2002 was established to help raise awareness of wetland values and functions. The program calls for coordinated international and national wetland education, public awareness and communication. In response to this, Australia developed the Wetland Communication, Education and Public Awareness (CEPA) National Action Plan 2001-2005, The First Step. Australia was the first Contracting Party to complete a CEPA plan.


Shorebird Education Australia was an initiative identified in the CEPA Action Plan. It has delivered targeted programs to educators and children along the East-Asian Australasian flyway since June 2001. This communications strategy extends the existing programs to continue to deliver and enhance the outcomes achieved by the shorebird project.


This communications strategy will contribute to the appreciation of shorebirds, their life cycles and their specific habitat requirements.


This strategy is in harmony with the Australian CEPA National Action Plan and will be delivered in partnership with other relevant shorebird education projects.


In addition this communications strategy helps fulfill Australia’s obligations under the Asia-Pacific Migratory Waterbird Conservation Strategy: 2001-2005 which aims to enhance the long-term conservation of migratory waterbirds and their habitats in the Asia-Pacific region. Within the Conservation Strategy there are eight key elements listed including Element 3 - "Raised awareness of waterbirds and their link to wetland values and functions throughout the region and at all levels". The Conservation Strategy, through Element 3, aims to deliver:

Increasing public awareness of the values of waterbirds is fundamental to efforts to promote their conservation. Public support and participation is essential to ensure the successful implementation of the Strategy and Action Plans. To increase the appreciation and awareness of waterbirds and their habitats, it is important to collaborate with existing education and public awareness programmes and to develop new programmes, which are targeted to a range of audiences locally, nationally and internationally.


The success of these education and awareness programmes depends on the development and dissemination of products, materials and tools tailored to the specific requirements of particular countries (e.g. language) and interest groups. Communication mechanisms will also be facilitated through existing and new channels such as wetland/ nature education/interpretation centres, networks sites, Ramsar sites and training courses. Where necessary, wetland centres need to be set-up for effective delivery of these programmes.

dotred.gif (924 bytes) A communication and education plan developed for the Strategy.
dotred.gif (924 bytes) Availability of a range of general communication products on wetlands and waterbirds in local languages.
dotred.gif (924 bytes) Availability of communication and education tools for use at Network sites and education centres.
dotred.gif (924 bytes) Enhanced community awareness of the value of managing waterbirds and their habitats through the implementation of wide ranging awareness programmes.
dotred.gif (924 bytes) Development of new wetland centres in the Asia-Pacific region to meet identified priority needs.

The Shorebird Education Communications Strategy, if implemented, will increase community awareness of wetlands, shorebirds and their habitats.


The Shorebird Education Communications Strategy helps deliver several key targets described in "Towards a Ramsar Convention Work Plan 2003-2005: Provisional national targets identified by Australia". Generally, an increased awareness of shorebirds and their habitats will also increase awareness of wetlands, wetland values and will promote the wise use of wetlands.


Specifically, Shorebird Education contributes to the following National Objectives:

arrow-green-sm.gif (865 bytes)  1.3 Enhanced knowledge of population trends and habitat use of a range of waterbird species.

arrow-green-sm.gif (865 bytes)  9.1 Australians are undertaking and participating in communication, education and public awareness (CEPA) raising activities that promote the conservation and wise use of wetlands.

arrow-green-sm.gif (865 bytes)  12.2 Australia cooperatively manages and monitors migratory waterbird populations in partnership with countries.

arrow-green-sm.gif (865 bytes)  14.1 Wetland and migratory waterbird networks continue to share expertise and information.

arrow-green-sm.gif (865 bytes)  14.2 Australia is sharing wetland and waterbird knowledge and expertise through twinning with sites overseas.




Since the Industrial Revolution the increased economic activity and population growth has contributed to the increased use of natural resources and degradation of the environment. Consequently the two main threats to the conservation of migratory waterbirds are the loss and degradation of habitat. Other threats include the introduction of exotic species and unsustainable harvesting of waterbirds.


Drainage and reclamation of wetlands has dramatically reduced the tidal flats and high tide roosting places available for shorebirds. In addition to the loss of habitat, degradation of the quality of habitats occurs due to the over-exploitation of wetland resources (inland and coastal fisheries, mangroves, reeds, etc.) and changes in the watersheds resulting from logging and mining, urban, rural and industrial developments. Siltation and increased sediment loads from deforestation and urban developments are adversely affecting many inland and estuarine wetlands. Pollution and eutrophication from industrial, agricultural and domestic operations are creating severe problems for inland and coastal wetlands; these contaminants directly and indirectly affect waterbirds. Degradation of habitat reduces the ability of the habitat to support a high density and diversity of birds. Wetlands across the region have been adversely affected by the introduction of plant and other introduced species, including fishes, mammals, birds, and reptiles, may have negative impacts on shorebirds (Asia-Pacific Migratory Waterbird Conservation Strategy: 2001-2005, Section 2.4)


Consistent feeding areas are vital to shorebirds who use their stored fat as fuel and during their long journey. They renew their fat layer by feeding for two or three weeks. The birds rely on stopover sites to provide plentiful food—"fast food" which is vital for their journey. In some conditions, such as bad weather or poor food supply, birds turn back, returning to their wintering grounds. The birds that reach the breeding grounds must be well fed and in good condition so that they can breed successfully. If humans destroy or damage these feeding grounds, the stopovers, the birds will have no future. (Flyways, Feathers and Fastfoods, 2002).


These unique requirements are not generally understood. Additionally the cross boundary aspects pose special problems for managers and conservation efforts. National attention is directed to towards competing environmental issues and the flight and feeding requirements for migratory shorebirds are often overlooked within the community and also consequently government funds have not been directed towards a community understanding of these amazing birds. The international agreements codified by CAMBA and JAMBA (and the Ramsar Convention) attempt to readdress these issues but more needs to be done.


3.0      AIM

Shorebird Education Australia aims to increase community awareness of shorebirds and their habitat.


This is in three parts:

1. Increased communication with Shorebird Sit Network Managers
2. Increased communication between educators along and across shorebird flyways
3. Increased communication within and between schools about shorebirds


4.0      RATIONALE

Communication with Shorebird Site Managers


The managers along the shorebird network sites are key people. They are usually physically close to the shorebirds and are aware of the movement and activities of the birds. This proximity (and on-site knowledge) can provide essential information for educators. The migratory nature of the birds can make it difficult to see them so knowing where they are at any time is very useful.


Site managers are also well placed to be aware of local experts, community members and teachers who may be interested in going to a school to talk about shorebirds. They may also be aware of the schools near the sites and any key people to contact.


Communication between educators along and across shorebird flyways


Educators benefit from being able to communicate with each other. A communication network between educators enables an exchange - of ideas, of bird movements and resources. It can also facilitate a coordinated approach to shorebird education so that students can communicate with each other about the birds near them, when they arrive, what they are doing and when they leave. This creates many exciting possibilities for communication between schools. Shorebird educators are well-placed to inspire and coordinate this level of communication.


Shorebird educators need not necessarily be teachers. They may be interested community members, people in bird watching groups (e.g. wader study groups), government agencies or wetland educators. They also need not necessarily be near shorebirds or the students with whom they are communicating.


Communication between shorebird educators is particularly useful along the flyways. The flyways provide a physical connection between countries and the communication links reflect the links along the shorebird network.


Communication within and between schools about shorebirds


Many successful environmental education programs have been targeted towards children. Children have an enormous ability to absorb information when it is presented in an interesting way. Children are genuinely interested in shorebirds, their long flights and ‘fastfood’ requirements. Children who live near a shorebird site are amazed that these little birds have flown from the other end of the world.


Recent studies have shown that people will change their behavior toward the environment when they have an emotional response to an environmental issue. The emotion can be negative or positive, but it needs to be acknowledged by the person (not suppressed) and then this can lead to a change in behavior. It is unlikely that a change will occur without an emotional response (unpublished Doctorate, Peter Martin, La Trobe University). So the communication strategies used in schools are designed to engage the children at an emotional level. That is not to say that the information presented to children should be exaggerated or embellished and nor does it need to be. The simple facts about shorebirds, their long flight, their stopovers, their need for food and their roosting requirements lend themselves to an emotional response. Experiences in schools over the past year have indicated that children do feel strongly about these birds. And those strong feelings have led to changed behavior.




The postcard program was developed in 2001 to increase awareness of shorebirds. It was aimed at Year 5/6 children. A postcard was designed which invited children to use the blank side of the postcard to draw a picture about shorebirds. Usually this involved a visit to the school from a Shorebird Officer who provided introductory material to the children and the teachers. The teachers allowed the children to do some research on shorebirds and then they completed the postcards and sent them back to me. I then placed them on the website and sent a special ‘thank you’ postcard back to the school and told them their work was on the web-site and reminded them of the address. Feedback from teachers indicates that the children enjoyed learning about shorebirds and loved seeing their own work on the Internet. Children are genuinely interested in the flight of migratory shorebirds. This is reflected in the number and quality of the postcards on the web site.


The postcard program was also used to link schools internationally, although this requires specifically designed postcards.


The program has been adopted in Japan, USA, NZ and throughout Australia. Some shorebird educators have modified the postcard program to suit their own requirements.


6.0      THE WEBSITE


The Shorebird Education Website contains the following features:

dotblue.gif (866 bytes)  The postcards received from students
dotblue.gif (866 bytes)  An interactive map showing the flyway and some participating schools
dotblue.gif (866 bytes)  Identification of shorebirds
dotblue.gif (866 bytes)  Background information on the program
dotblue.gif (866 bytes)  A mechanism for teachers to order postcards
dotblue.gif (866 bytes)  Links to ‘A Year on the Wing’, ‘Feathers, Flyways and Fastfood’, the Sister Schools Shorebird Program, Ramsar, The Wetland Centre, Natural Heritage Trust and Environment Australia
dotblue.gif (866 bytes)  It is maintained weekly

It can be found at




The communications table outlines: education issue, objectives, and strategies.


7.1 Increased communication with Shorebird Sit Network Managers


Education Issue Objective Strategies
Increase communication with Network Site Managers To facilitate links with schools near shorebird sites within Australia.

Obtain introductory letter from Environment Australia to introduce Shorebird Education.


Identify one shorebird educator contact near each of the Shorebird Network Sites.


Liaise with shorebird educator to present shorebird talk and provide information to appropriate classes.


Liaise with education contact in order to distribute postcards.


Where necessary go to the Network site and meet with managers and deliver program to schools in the area.


Link from website to email site networks.

. To gain up to date information about shorebirds, their locations and their feeding habits.

Create a return-facsimile loop with simple questions to determine the species of birds at any one site at any time, the feeding habits of the birds, the tides and any useful information.


This information is designed to facilitate educators but it could also be used by the wider community and by government agencies who would benefit from increased data on shorebird distribution and abundance.

. To provide teachers (or education contacts) with useful information about the birds near them. Gather and distribute information from the Site Managers to appropriate schools.
. To help teachers (or education contacts) organize a meaningful excursion to the shorebird site.

Use information from the Site Managers to facilitate the excursion organisers with regard to seasons, bird species, tides, roosting areas, feeding areas etc.


Facilitate the development of a shorebird excursion – develop program, write guidelines, develop proforma, write an excursion checklist.

. To create a database of bird movements. Use gathered information from site managers to create a data base of bird movements which will enable teachers, shorebird educators, government agencies, interested members of the community and children to track bird movements.
. To encourage appropriate behaviour around shorebird sites. Use site-specific information to provide shorebird educators with guidelines for sensitive behaviour around shorebird sites.


Produce this information in written form for use at shorebird sites.


7.2 Increased communication between educators along and across shorebird flyways


Education Issue



Increase communication among shorebird educators. To raise awareness of shorebirds and their habitats. Link all the on-line shorebird education web sites together to create an on-line education flyway (one option maybe an interactive map).
. To link schools along the East-Asian Australasian flyway. Extend the postcard program to include more schools along the flyway and link them together.
. To link schools across flyways. In conjunction with Hisashi Okura (WWF Japan) and Hilary Chapman (SSSP) identify a specific day (or week) when children along the flyway would be involved with a combined activity.
. To exchange ideas, products and technical support. Commit to a scheduled email chat on a regular basis (bi-monthly).

Arrange a face-to-face meeting.

Build a list of international shorebird education contacts.

. To build capacity in each other, and the community, in order to campaign against threats to shorebirds and their habitats.

Identify key threats to shorebird habitats and, where applicable, collaborate with shorebird conservationists to develop education strategies for particular sites.


If several sites are identified with common features, the same strategies may be used along the flyway in a coordinated manner.


Provide education support to decision makers, agencies and organisations to facilitate shorebird conservation.

. To highlight the needs of shorebirds in general and of individual species. Identify stories, which will illustrate the needs of shorebirds in general, and some species in particular.

Use stories to engage children, and the community, at an emotional level.

. To increase knowledge about specific shorebirds, their flight patterns, habitat needs, identification.

Recognise that shorebirds differ in their flight patterns, their food requirements and their habitat needs.


Translate these differing requirements into education products.

7.3 Increased communication within and between schools about shorebirds


Education Issue



Increase communication with children about shorebirds. To raise awareness of shorebirds and their habitats.

Extend the postcard program to more schools along the flyways.


Extend the postcard program to subsequent years within existing ‘shorebird schools’.


Extend the postcard program to schools, which may not be near shorebird sites but show interest.


Develop an on-line postcard where children can write (or draw?) a story about shorebirds, which can be posted, on the web site.


Develop the web page to tell stories about particular birds.


In collaboration with other shorebird educators identify a day (or days) when an on-line scientist is available to answer questions from any child along the flyway (some translation costs will be involved)

. Link schools

Create a postcard trail, which follows the flight of the birds and links schools together.


Use existing links between schools to introduce shorebirds e.g., the Kushiro/Callaghan College (previously Jesmond High School) exchange program.

. Link schools across flyways

Establish a cross flyway initiative in collaboration with other shorebird educators, particularly, WWF Japan and Shorebirds Sister Schools Program in the US.

Communicate regularly with key shorebird educators to maximize participation in cross-flyway initiatives.

. Identify schools with established interest in shorebirds and take them the next step

Create a follow-up package to send to schools with more detailed information about shorebirds near their school and general information including web sites.


Encourage their school to link to shorebird websites on their homepage.


Develop a monitoring program where key schools contribute to the national knowledge on shorebird distribution and abundance.

. Provide teachers with information on shorebirds. Collaborate with other shorebird educators to design and publish worksheets covering key learning areas across different age groups so that teachers can download information about shorebirds, which meets their syllabus requirements.
. Harness the excitement generated by ‘A Year on the Wing’.

Send appropriate schools an information package on shorebirds.


Introduce appropriate schools to the postcard program.


Target key schools and take them on an excursion to see shorebirds (trial).

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