Involvement of broad masses into the process of monitoring of indicator species ensures a large coverage of territory and sufficient amount of data, but it also imposes definite restrictions in terms of object of research - it has to be sensitive to changes, available, easy to identify and if possible, attractive.
In Ararat plane, Shirak and Lori plateaus, and in the valley of Arpa river White Stork is such an object. Since 2006 a program of White Stork monitoring is running in Armenia with the help of nest-neighbors. Nest-neighbors are families, in whose neighborhood the storks are nesting. Firstly the inventory of all nests has been done, and each has been given an ID number. Then the parameters of monitoring have been selected and on their basis a calendar has been made. The calendars are being annually filled out by local people, and are collected in the end of each year, while the nest-neighbors receive a next year calendars.
Collection of this data allowed to determine coefficients of nestling survivability and reproductive success and to detect locations of unobvious ecosystem changes. Thus, detection of territories with low reproductive success among White Storks, was an incitement for more detailed research, which revealed a high degree of soil contamination with DDT derivatives (DDD and DDE). That, in its turn, allowed to start a process of soil remediation and removal of stable organic pollutants and introduction of biological methods of pest control in agriculture.
The scheme of permanent interaction with nest-neighbors allowed to detect conflict zones between human and storks, which often nest on roofs of residential houses, building their nests on drains, blocking them and troubling house owners. It allowed to start development of solutions for conflict minimization through installing platforms on house roofs, which ensure normal drain and place for nesting. Besides, such scheme allowed to start a program on rehabilitation of injured storks. At first we care for them with the help of professional veterinarians, then we delegate them to nest-neighbors
Today more than 1000 families are involved into process of care for White Stork. Next step in this direction was development of "White Stork" eco-club net, based on village schools, where schoolchildren are involved into monitoring, care for storks, placing of nest boxes, competitions of best stories, pictures and photographs, events of European context (celebrations of Bird Day, Migratory Bird Day, Earth Day, etc) and where they organize their own event - annual celebration of White Stork Day.
In 2007 the project received Whitley Award from Whitley Fund for Nature - the top conservation award in UK, in 2010 and 2014 - two Continuation Funding Grants from Whitley Fund for Nature.
Bird Identification Training Course
Since 2003 we launched Bird Identification Training Course program. The course consisted of 60 lessons and 6 field trips and was aimed to train students to identify rapidly more than 150 bird species. It could be conducted in a less intensive (twice per week during 9 months) or intensive (six hours per day during two weeks) schedule. In the period between 2003 and 2008 more than 400 people took the course and many of them are still interested in birds and continue birding, participate in bird count (see group Birding Armenia), or even have developed their career in the field of ornithology or conservation. The program was integrated into educational initiatives of different organizations in Armenia (US Peace Corps, Foundation for Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets, SunChild NGO, American University of Armenia, Association of Young Biologists, GIZ, etc.) and in the region (Batumi Raptor Count), where the training is lead by our graduates.