Karyn Stockdale, Keynote

Western Water Director

National Audubon Society


Karyn Stockdale has spent the past 17 years working to protect and restore freshwater ecosystems across the American West. As Western Water Director for the National Audubon Society, Karyn leads strategic conservation, public policy, and engagement efforts to improve water management and water policy for nature and bird habitats in the West with a wide range of public and private partners. Audubon has prioritized work in the Colorado River Basin and across the network of saline lakes, like Great Salt Lake. 

Karyn is part of the team leading the conservation community’s efforts to implement water sharing agreements in the Southwest and restore the Colorado River Delta. In September 2017, these efforts resulted in the signing of Minute 323 which commits the U.S. and Mexico to work together to address potential Colorado River water shortages and to scale up ongoing environmental restoration projects in the Delta.   

From 2007-2014, Karyn was Vice President and Executive Director of Audubon New Mexico. She has also held positions with the National Wildlife Federation and the Trust for Public Land, where she led negotiations for land acquisition projects to protect natural areas and historic sites. In 2012, she was appointed by the President of the United States to serve on the Board of Trustees responsible for the management of the Valles Caldera National Preserve, now a National Park. Born in Del Rio, Texas and raised all over the West, Karyn holds degrees from the University of New Mexico and University of Texas at Austin. 

Title: Water and Birds in the Arid West – Saline Lake Habitats in Decline

Friday, May 11th, 1:05 PM

Abstract: Great Salt Lake and the Salton Sea, along with other less well-known landlocked saline lakes that dot the West, are the unsung heroes that birds like the American Avocet and Eared Grebe depend on for survival.  Collectively, saline lakes in the West support global populations of birds, including over 99% of the North American population of Eared Grebes, up to 90% of Wilson’s Phalaropes, and over 50% of American Avocets.

Importantly, these saline lakes function as a network of critical habitats. Each is a vital link on migratory pathways from winter to breeding grounds and back again — and because shorebirds and waterbirds congregate in large numbers at major lakes, they are particularly vulnerable to habitat loss.

But these saline lakes are drying up at an alarming rate, and not only eliminating bird habitat but, in some places, exposing toxic dust that threatens neighboring communities. More than half of the major saline lakes in the West have shrunk by 50 to 95% over the past 150 years. If current western water trends continue and are compounded by climate change, many bird species face diminished and degraded habitat in the future.

Audubon’s Water and Birds in the Arid West: Habitats in Decline report released in 2017 highlights these major findings for saline lakes in a comprehensive assessment of the relationships that exist among birds, water, and climate change in the region. 

Without action, the decline of water resources threatens birds [and people] that rely on these habitats. This problem demands short-term solutions to address the habitat issues of the present while working to address longer-term solutions for reliable water supplies, even in the face of climate change impacts.

Wilsey, Chad B., Lotem Taylor, Nicole Michel, and Karyn Stockdale. 2017. Water and Birds in the Arid West: Habitats in Decline. National Audubon Society, New York, New York, USA.  https://www.audubon.org/sites/default/files/wbaw_report_5july17_updated.pdf 



Why We Care

  • How might we appropriately care for something if we do not know about it? How can we as citizens make informed decisions, without first being informed? We cannot.

    Bruce Thompson, FRIENDS of Great Salt Lake