State of the Union at Global Conservation Alliance

by Lanny McDowell on February 15, 2010


Here is an update on where we stand right now.  By the way, the new name for our shorebird project within GCA is The Red Knot Survival Project.

I was just reading about non-profits and who gives to them, who the supporters are.  Well it turns out that 75% of the money donated comes from private individuals.  That is pretty astounding, and also encouraging.  As of this writing, Global Conservation Alliance has received money donations from various individuals, from one corporate contributor and from one conservation organization donor.

GCA members have traveled to Delaware Bay to work there the last two years, in 2008 and 2009; and we anticipate going back this year.  Our target dates are May 22 until June 1st.  The full moon, when horseshoe crabs gather in the most dense numbers to lay their eggs, because the higher tides of the full and new moons take them further up the beach, occurs on the 27th of May this year, right in the middle of our stay.  Also, it happens that the historical departure date for Red Knots leaving en masse for the Arctic occurs on some afternoon between the 27th and the 29th of May.

Back to the money.  This is the first year that it was clear to the GCA founders that we cannot go to the Cape May beaches without soliciting and getting significant outside financial support.  The days of financing our work out-of-pocket – that’s three people paying their own way to get to southern New Jersey, rent space to live while there, eat, do the work and basically ignore their obligations back home – are gone.  That approach is no longer practical.  It is not just a function of the overall economy.  It is a consideration of the expanded scope of our projects.  If we are to move forward with our mission to pro-actively and measurably improve the status of the Red Knot and other migrating shorebirds, we need to spend another season conducting studies designed to quantify how our innovative methods can actually result in improved departure weights for the birds.

Personal aside:  As someone who is more of a naturalist by context than by formal education, whose appreciation of natural phenomena is mostly experiential via birding and avian photography, as opposed to scientific training in biology and ecology, my patience is challenged by the notion pervasive in the scientific culture that one has to prove the obvious to earn the credibility that allows one to progress to the point of applying real solutions to a problem.  In this case the “problem” is that rufa Red Knots are losing ground to possible extinction.  My two colleagues in GCA are more attuned to the scientific method and the bureaucratic demands required of those who want to participate; and they balance my urge “to get on with it”.  This is a roundabout way of saying that, however much I would like to leap directly into implementation, GCA has another season of research to complete before we can supplement the shorebirds’ natural food stocks (horseshoe crab eggs) at a scale sufficient to make a measurable difference.

Back to the money, again.  Here is our very modest financial situation.  Thanks to the generous efforts of two individuals, GCA is able to pay for submission and accounting fees associated with applying for tax-exempt status.  We have money left over, just, to commit to a house rental in Cape May Courthouse to house the crew for ten days this May.  Beyond covering those inescapable expenses, GCA needs to raise funding to underwrite the 2010 projects.  Funding implies which projects can be designed and accomplished; and the projects imply the funding.  Thus funding and project design are inter-dependent.  Applications for permits to work on the beaches are also dependent on funding and project design, and vice-versa.

GCA has developed two budget goals, both practical and both doable. The first budget provides the absolute bare minimum for being on site for ten days and carrying out a project to measure how much more volume of horseshoe crab eggs is consumed by shorebirds when the beaches are plowed to expose more eggs.  We are also actively looking for other research studies to run in tandem with ours to help assess how increased egg exposure and egg predation by the shorebirds may result in weight gain (grams of fat)  for the birds.  This budget comes in at $9,685.

The second budget is for a longer stay, to bracket both the new and the full moon dates, and provides for broader testing and the completion of  a second project, which involves supplying an alternative food source to distract Laughing Gulls competing with shorebirds for the horseshoe crab eggs.  This budget also includes money for administrative costs, for the first time in three years.  This budget, the one we really hope to reach, is for $44,300.  Details of both budgets can be had for the asking.

I have read that if there is a ratio of more than 50% of an organization’s funds going to administrative costs, that is too high.  And also that, according to the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance (at, they suggest that no more than 35% of funds be put back into fund-raising.  For the record, GCA has dedicated zero per cent (0%) of funds received into fund-raising or administrative costs.  This has a nice, clean ring to it, for the time being, but it is not sustainable, unless someone with the time and the will volunteers to do it!

The Appeal: The Red Knot Survival Project needs supporters now desperately, to ensure that our programs will continue, to fund our work this coming May.  It is not that far away.  Remember, our sole mission at GCA is to develop and implement programs that result in the Red Knot and similar shorebirds leaving on their flights to the Arctic with more fat reserves than they would have without our help. Perhaps the  man most knowledgeable about the ecology of the Red Knot, Brian Harrington, who is also a consultant to GCA, has advised us, “Make sure it remains about the birds, and does not become just about the people.”  We take this advice to heart.  We keep that goal in sight.  If the rufa Red Knot suffers more declines and cannot recover, we will all wonder how we could have done more to save them.

If you can help, or you know an individual or an institution that can help, please be in contact with GCA about it.  My email address is (copy & paste).  Please ask us about specific budget items you would like to cover for us, such as $1,000 for housing for ten days in May, or $1,500 for transportation costs to get us all to Cape May this year.  We can find something large or small to fit your donation dollar amount and put that money to work directly and specifically.

Donations may be sent to Porter Turnbull, President of Global Conservation Alliance, 59-168A Kamehameha Hwy., Haleiwa, Hawaii  96712.  Right now, donations can be made by check.  Soon GCA’s website will be up; and there you can make contributions the modern way, with your credit card or Paypal account.  However, please do not wait for the website!

If you are unfamiliar with our work, there are three pages at this blog which show and tell about our work at Delaware Bay.  Find this information by clicking on any of these web addresses:

For a pictorial review of the 2009 field season, go to:

For a general introduction to our mission and why we want to help the Red Knot, go to:


Thank you so much for reading this appeal.  Please let me know how you want to help.  Time’s awasting!

Lanny McDowell for Global Conservation Alliance and The Red Knot Survival Project.

Moore's Beach 052208 NJ 062cs1 logo V

Disclaimer:  These pages are not intended to have commercial connections with Lanny McDowell Avian Art, the name of this blog.  The pages for GCA are located here as a matter of convenience, in the absence of a dedicated website for The Red Knot Survival Project at this time.

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Soo 02.15.10 at 4:16 pm

Very nicely presented. Hope it works. If I hit the lottery, you guys will get a hit!

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