A conversation with Peter Frederick

What is your job, what do you work on, and what is your involvement with GoMAMN?

I am a research professor in the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of Florida. I work on wetland ecology and restoration, with a specialization in the Everglades and other subtropical wetlands. The long legged wading birds I study range very widely in the Southeast, and I have been interested for many years in regionwide surveys as a way to understand population dynamics, and movements between major wetland complexes. I became involved with GoMAMN at the beginning because of that need, and together with Clay Green have led the Long Legged Wading Bird chapter in the Strategic Monitoring Guidelines.

Tell us about yourself.

I was introduced at an early age to many aspects of ornithology by my grandfather, who studied bird flight, physiology, and the acoustics of song, and I had the fortune to work with him on three continents.  My upbringing on the Chesapeake Bay gave me an inherent appreciation of wetlands and estuaries, and I can describe my subsequent career in terms of wetlands (Delaware and Chesapeake Bays, Pamlico Sound, Georgia Sounds, Savanna River, South Carolina estuaries, Everglades, Florida Gulf Coast, Venezuelan Llanos, Brazilian Pantanal, Miskito Coast, Bhutanese mountain rivers).  My PhD training emphasized behavioral ecology, which was an excellent foundation, but I have since become immersed in ecotoxicology, hydrological management, population estimation, and large scale ecological restoration techniques in aquatic systems.  I think restoration is a natural progression and a direct challenge for an ecologist – its highly integrative across disciplines, it forces one to identify the real drivers, it puts your money where your mouth is!

Besides a coordinated and integrated monitoring program, what do you see as another essential need for furthering avian management in the Gulf of Mexico?

The nearshore waters of the Gulf are hugely affected by patterns of freshwater inputs to some of the most magnificent and richest estuaries in the world.  Perhaps the greatest single threat to coastal birds (and consequently the single most effective management tool) is the management of freshwater quality and discharge to estuaries.  Upstream hydrological management is central to the biology of all coastal life, particularly in the Gulf.  I see a huge gap in our understanding of how freshwater affects the habitats and communities of Gulf estuaries, and how that translates to avian populations.  That gap becomes gigantically important as the alterations to discharge and water quality become magnified by growing human populations, and by various aspects of global change.

Where is your favorite outdoor place on the Gulf Coast?

You are asking me to pick a favorite child – NOT FAIR!

If you could befriend 3 famous people (living or dead), who would they be?

Alexander Humboldt, the author John McPhee, and Archie Carr, the famous conservationist and herpetologist.

Any other little-known fact about you that you’d like to tell us?

I have lived through four hurricanes, one earthquake, and an airplane crash. Not sure if any of those experiences made me stronger!

What is one thing you know for sure?

“If we knew what we were doing, we wouldn’t call it science.” -Albert Einstein