Natalia Martinez

Integrating eco-physiological and socio-economic aspects to reduce the impact of aquaculture on shorebirds

Location of the project: Chiloe, Chile
Sector: Science
Highest Degree earned: Ph.D. in Biology
Type of the project: Research

Natalia is a postdoctoral biologist from Buenos Aires, Argentina, that has been doing research in South America on the conservation of coastal ecosystems and the ecology of migratory waterbirds. During her career, she has collaborated with the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, and is part of the International Wader Study Group. Her work has supported the creation of marine protected areas and the identification of sites of international importance for shorebirds.

Her proposed project for the Coastal Solutions Fellowship is located on the Chiloé archipelago in Chile, a site with a network of wetlands that provide critical wintering habitat for shorebirds, including 99% of the Pacific coast population of Hudsonian Godwits. The high marine productivity in the region creates an overlap between feeding areas for shorebirds and economically important aquaculture activities, in particular the production of red algae (Gracilaria chilensis).  The disturbance caused by this activity can cause significant stress on shorebirds, decreasing their ability to feed and gain weight for their migration back north, resulting in decreased reproductive success and increased mortality.

Natalia is proposing to conduct research on the distribution, abundance and physiology of the wintering shorebirds of Chiloé, along with studies on the socio-economic context of the aquaculture activities, to generate an adaptive management model that will identify solutions to reduce the impact of this human activity on shorebirds. Furthermore, she will work with the local communities to develop the implementation mechanisms for these recommendations. In this project, she will be based at the Universidad Austral de Chile, where she will collaborate with researchers on shorebird ecology as well as experts on public policy and coastal zone management.