SOUTH CAROLINA (Dec. 14, 2021) – Today, Audubon South Carolina and Dominion Energy announced the installation of two new Motus wildlife tracking towers in the Midlands and Lowcountry. The towers – which were installed at the Silver Bluff Audubon Center & Sanctuary in Aiken and the Audubon Center and Sanctuary at Francis Beidler Forest in Harleyville thanks to a grant from Dominion Energy’s Charitable Foundation – mark the latest additions to South Carolina’s rapidly-growing Motus tower network.
“Migratory birds face threats during all stages of the annual cycle, and these threats are accelerating,” said Angelina Ricci Eisenhauer, Audubon South Carolina’s interim executive director. “Motus data is helping us better understand birds’ migratory pathways, so we can do more to protect them, and the habitat they rely on, throughout their full lifecycles.”
Organizations like Audubon South Carolina are using Motus – which comes from the Latin word for “movement” – to track the migratory patterns of birds, insects and other animals. To facilitate this, researchers outfit species of interest with tiny radio frequency transmitters, called "nanotags,” which emit a specific radiofrequency. When tagged individuals pass within a certain range of a tower, the nanotags “ping” the tower, providing researchers real-time insight into their migratory journeys. For Audubon South Carolina, this means uncovering the most important bird wintering, breeding, and migratory stopover locations across the state, and throughout the greater Atlantic Flyway.
“Normally when we erect towers and deploy technology it is to provide safe and reliable energy to our customers,” said Keller Kissam, president-Electric Operations at Dominion Energy South Carolina. "What a privilege it is to erect towers in a collaborative effort with the Audubon Society to monitor, appreciate and learn more about the unique migratory species that repeatedly return to South Carolina and make it the natural wonder it is from the mountains to the sea.”
These towers are the latest installations as part of a collaborative effort to build a comprehensive Motus tower network across the state. Audubon South Carolina, along with other partners – including South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, National Park Service, Dewees Island Conservancy, Charleston Audubon Society, Nemours Wildlife Foundation, schools, universities, and other non-profit organizations – are working to establish a network that blanket the entire state so we can begin to deploy nanotags on priority species and track their migratory routes.
“We know Audubon South Carolina’s wildlife sanctuaries provide important habitat for many of our most vulnerable bird species,” said Jennifer McCarthy Tyrrell, Audubon South Carolina’s engagement manager, who is helping lead these Motus efforts. “Through Motus, we are finding out just how connected and vital this habitat, and others like it, really are for birds across the hemisphere. Dominion Energy’s contribution to the South Carolina Motus tower network is an important investment in migration research, habitat conservation, and the future of our birds.”
A 2019 study published in the journal Science found that North America has lost nearly 3 billion birds over the last several decades. By gathering a greater understanding of the pathways that birds use during migration, Audubon and partners can work to mitigate threats and conserve habitats and resources along a bird’s entire annual lifecycle.
The data collected from South Carolina’s Motus network also supports the National Audubon Society Migratory Bird Initiative, which uses tracking, banding, and e-Bird data to update Important Bird and Key Biodiversity Areas across the Western Hemisphere, ultimately improving understanding and conservation planning for imperiled migratory birds and the habitats they need.
Dominion Energy and its charitable foundation awarded $1.5 million in grants to schools and nonprofit organizations working to improve natural spaces or teach about the environment in 2020.
About National Audubon Society
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon’s state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon’s vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn how to help at www.audubon.org and follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @audubonsociety.
About Audubon South Carolina
Audubon South Carolina protects birds and the places they need, right here in South Carolina. We are the state office of the National Audubon Society, which has more than one million members and a century-long track record of success. In South Carolina, we represent more than 26,000 Audubon members and supporters, eight Audubon chapters and bird club partners, two Audubon centers and 22,000 acres of land that we own and manage. Learn more about what we do and how to help at sc.audubon.org. Follow us on Facebook at @scaudubon, Twitter at @audubonsc, and Instagram at @audubon_sc. Please visit www.sc.audubon.org for more information.
About Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation
More than 7 million customers in 16 states energize their homes and businesses with electricity or natural gas from Dominion Energy (NYSE: D). Through its Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation, as well as EnergyShare and other programs, Dominion Energy contributed more than $58 million in 2020 to community causes. The Foundation supports nonprofit causes that meet basic human needs, protect the environment, promote education, and encourage community vitality. Please visit www.DominionEnergy.com to learn more.