Rob Clay, Keynote

Director of the Executive Office

Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN)


Rob Clay is the Director of the Excecutive Office of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN), which is housed by Manomet, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit that champions better practices in conservation, business sustainability, and science education. Prior to joining Manomet, Rob worked for BirdLife International as Senior Conservation Manager in the Americas Secretariat, where he led the development of conservation programs for grassland birds, migratory birds, and globally threatened birds. Rob is the current Chair of the Waterbird Conservation Council and the Co-Councilor for Birds for the Convention on Migratory Species. Prior to working for BirdLife International, Rob worked for the lead Paraguayan conservation NGO, Guyra Paraguay, an organization he helped found in 1997. Rob received his B.A. and M.A. in Zoology and his Ph.D. in Behavioral Ecology from the University of Cambridge (U.K.). He is a native of the United Kingdom but has called Paraguay home since 1997 (except for two years spent in Ecuador). With a life-long passion for birds, his interest in neotropical birds and conservation began during an undergraduate expedition to Paraguay in 1992 and led to Ph.D. studies of manakins in Costa Rica and Panama. However, his true love is shorebirds, and he has watched them from the windswept estuaries of Patagonia, to High Andean wetlands at over 13,000 feet, Central American mangroves and mudflats, to the Boreal Forest.

Title: Great Salt Lake: A Resource of Hemispheric Significance

Friday, May 11th, 8:10 AM

Abstract: Great Salt Lake is one of the most important sites in the USA for migratory shorebirds, ducks and other waterbirds, with several million birds using the lake annually. In 1991, the global significance of Great Salt Lake for shorebird conservation was recognized by its designation as a site of “Hemispheric Importance” within the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN), due to the large numbers of shorebirds (more than 500,000) that use the lake each year.

The lake’s “Hemispheric Importance” designation goes beyond the sheer number of shorebirds that use its resources. Great Salt Lake is a cornerstone of a complex ecological network of key sites for shorebirds throughout the Western Hemisphere. The loss of any one threatens the survival of the whole system. The connectivity of Great Salt Lake was recognized early in the history of conservation efforts at the lake, when in June 1992, there was a "three-way twinning" with Laguna Mar Chiquita (Argentina) and Mono Lake (California). Both are WHSRN Sites, and share ecological similarities with Great Salt Lake, including large numbers of Wilson's Phalaropes. Further recognition of the important role of Great Salt Lake as part of a network came in 1998, when stakeholders from two additional WHSRN sites sharing species came together with Great Salt Lake to form the “Linking Communities, Wetlands and Migratory Birds Initiative”. These sites are the Chaplin Lake and associated lakes in Saskatchewan, Canada, and the Marismas Nacionales complex of Nayarit, Mexico. In more recent years, this network of conservation linkages has been expanded to sites in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Peru. However, Great Salt Lake’s connections with other WHSRN sites go beyond the birds themselves. Over one third of the world’s supply of bring shrimp cysts come from the lake. These are used in the shrimp aquaculture industry, including at WHSRN sites from Mexico and Nicaragua to Venezuela and Brazil.

My talk will illustrate the network of linkages that connect Great Salt Lake to the rest of the hemisphere through shared migratory birds and shared brine shrimps, underline the interdependence that exists between these networks of sites, and will report on the conservation successes throughout the hemisphere that have occurred thanks to the pioneering linking efforts from Great Salt Lake.



Why We Care

  • Sunday evening in March 2016, our family visited Black Rock Beach to view the Great Salt Lake. My one year old son just loved running up and down the beach, and touching his toes in the salty water. It was evening and as the sun settled in the west, the lake came alive with previously hidden texture and beauty. We watched in awe as the magnificence of the lake reviled itself, and I just had to capture the moment with my camera.

    Julie Meadows, Alfred Lambourne Prize Participant