Crowdfunding campaign

Study of the White Stork’s
migratory behavior
in the context of global change
using GPS beacons

Project overview

In the marshes of the Gironde estuary (France), BioSphère Environnement and the Chizé Center for Biological Studies (a unit of the French National Center for Scientific Research – CNRS) have developed an ambitious research program to track adult White Storks (Ciconia ciconia) throughout their life cycles using GPS technology. The collected data will allow us to document the strategies behind the White Stork’s migratory patterns in order to better protect the habitats used by this species during the breeding period, as well as during migration and wintering periods (whether in European wetlands or African oases and wadis). In the context of global change (global warming, drying up and transformation of wetlands…) this program will document the habitats used by the White Stork throughout its life cycle, study the capacity of adaptation of birds confronted with these changes, and raise awareness about the importance of wetlands conservation. This research program involves significant human and financial resources.  We therefore propose that private citizens as well as companies participate actively and join us in this project by financially assisting the development of the field work and the purchase of GPS beacons.

Origin of the project

With more than 500 breeding pairs, the Charente-Maritime department is home to approximately 20% of the White Stork’s French population. In the south of the department, about 40 pairs breed in the marshes of the Gironde estuary. This population is the subject of a major research program dedicated to the study of the species’ reproduction biology, led by a team at the Chizé Center for Biological Studies (a CNRS unit). In addition to this program, the non-profit research institute BioSphère Environnement and the CNRS set up a partnership in 2018 to study the movement of birds breeding in the marshes of the Gironde Estuary: e.g., feeding habitats during the breeding season, migration strategies, wintering areas. These surveys are made possible by the fitting of GPS tags on birds. The birds’ state of health is also examined in a precise way by studies of physiological stress (chromosome status, etc.) coupled with other analyses developed for the chicks of the monitored birds (trace metals, hormones and organic pollutants in the feathers and blood).

Expected results

During the spring of 2019, a trial year for the research program, a first White Stork was equipped with a GPS tag. This bird, whose breeding ground is in the heart of the Gironde estuary’s marshes, arrived in Niger in early September 2019 after passing through Spain, Morocco and Algeria. The GPS tag enabled us to closely monitor the bird’s entire migration. In 2020 and 2021, we hope to equip a dozen White Storks from the Gironde estuary with GPS tags. The results collected by the tag fitted on the first bird are exceptional. Beyond their scientific interest, they allow for a better understanding of this mythical species by following the migration of birds on a daily basis. By communicating the results of the program via social networks, a blog dedicated to this program and the BioSphère Environnement website, we offer an opportunity for nature enthusiasts, families and schools to follow birds throughout their whole life cycle, between Europe and sub-Saharan Africa, to discover their way of life and the habitats they use. Being able to travel with these migratory birds is something extraordinary, which we would like to share with as many people as possible.

What will the funds collected be used for?

The funds raised through this crowdfunding operation will enable BioSphère Environnement and the CNRS team to deploy in 2020 and 2021 significant technical and human resources in capturing the White Storks and equipping them with GPS tags. Funds will mainly pay for GPS tags that will be fitted on birds in order to track their movements throughout their life cycle, as well as fund the recovery of data collected by the GPS tags, sent daily via mobile networks.

Our team…

The project will be carried out by BioSphère Environnement (www.biosphere-environnement.com), a non-profit research institute, in partnership with the Chizé Center for Biological Studies (a CNRS unit: www.cebc.cnrs.fr). It is co-headed by Raphaël Musseau, a research engineer in ecology specializing in migratory birds and Director of BioSphère Environnement, and by Christophe Barbraud, CNRS’s Research Director, who specializes in the consequences of climate and environmental variations on bird populations. The program is established with the help of the Research Center on Biology of Bird Populations (CRBPO – French National Museum of Natural History), and the  Loire-Atlantique Association for Ornithological Knowledge and Research (ACROLA), which is also developing a monitoring program dedicated to the White Stork in the Loire-Atlantique wetlands.

Please help us by donating to the project

20 Euros: you become a Member of the Gironde Estuary White Stork Club for one year. Throughout the year, you have access to a privatized web page dedicated to the project. This web page, reserved for members of the club, provides updated information about the program.

50 Euros: you become a Silver Member of the Gironde Estuary White Stork Club for one year. Throughout the year, you will receive the program’s newsletter and have access to a privatized web page allowing you to consult, on an exclusive basis, all the latest news regarding the program: photos and videos of the operations of GPS banding of the birds, updated maps of the movement and migration of birds equipped with GPS tags…

150 Euros: you become a Gold Member of the Gironde Estuary White Stork Club for one year. Throughout the year, you will receive the program’s newsletter and will have access to a privatized web page allowing you to consult, on an exclusive basis, all the latest news regarding the program: photos and videos of the operations of GPS banding of the birds, updated maps of the movement and migration of birds equipped with GPS tags. You are invited to all the events set up as part of the research program and are invited to come and follow the research team in private during certain operations: banding of stork chicks…

2,000 Euros: by financing the purchase of a GPS beacon, you become the Sponsor of a white stork that will be equipped with GPS technology. Your name, the name of your company or a name of your choosing is closely associated with the communication developed around the program and the bird you sponsor. You have exclusive access to bird data equipped with GPS tags (satellite images and Google Earth open files). You are invited to all the events set up as part of the research program and are invited to come and follow the research team in private during certain operations: banding of stork chicks… Every year, you and the other sponsors are invited by the biologists running the program to visit the beautiful marshlands of the Gironde estuary and discover on-site the population of White storks you have sponsored: our Sponsor’s Day is held the Saturday afternoon of the last weekend in May, ending with a cocktail dinner at a beautiful Charentais house located near an important White Stork colony.

Donation procedure

We accept donations via the French web platform « HelloAsso », which  allows you to make a donation in a safe and a secure manner. To do so, please click on this link: make a donation

We thank you in advance for your generous support of this exciting project!

Dr Raphaël Musseau
Studies and research coordinator, BioSphère Environnement

Dr Christophe Barbraud
Research Director, French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS)


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