Research

Kiawah Then and Now: 1974-2014

In 1974 the heirs of C. C. Royal sold Kiawah to the Kuwait Investment Corporation, and that group commissioned an extensive environmental inventory of the Island as the basis for a master plan for development. This inventory was published in 1975, and contains a wealth of information about the state of Kiawah Island in the latter part of the 20th century. Mark Permar, an environmental architect, recently said that this report marked the beginning of the development of the Island and observed that 2015 is “the 40th anniversary of the 'modern' era for Kiawah Island.” He went on to say that “the foundation of a way of thinking set forth in the …  environmental assessment … has always been a significant differentiator when compared to other coastal new communities.”

The Environmental Science committee of the Kiawah Conservancy recently completed a review of much of the 1975 report. The committee focused on determining the effects of development on the environment and on identifying topics that may need further study. The summary report, which brings together the Committee’s work with information from many other environmental studies on Kiawah, is available download below.

2014 Review: 1975 Environment of Kiawah Report

Bobcat GPS Research

The Kiawah Conservancy, in partnership with the Town of Kiawah Island, initiated the Bobcat GPS study in 2007.  The study is ongoing and a total of 60 bobcats have been captured and fitted with GPS collars (5 in 2007, 8 in 2008, 10 in 2009, 6 in 2010, 8 in 2011, 9 in 2012, 6 in 2013 and 8 in 2014).  More than 30,000 individual bobcats locations have been obtained to date. As data is compiled, the Conservancy is able to learn more about how bobcats move around the Island and the types of habitats they prefer.  By pinpointing specific areas or habitat types that are of vital importance to bobcats (especially for denning and daytime resting), the Conservancy has the ability to enhance its land preservation planning on Kiawah.  The Town also uses the GPS data to update its Bobcat Management Guidelines for the Island.

Learn more about ongoing Bobcat GPS Research, including current and prevous year data, at www.kiawahisland.org/wildlife/bobcat-research/.

Bird Banding and Monitoring

The Kiawah Island Banding Station (KIBS) is supported by the Kiawah Conservancy and operated by the Town of Kiawah Island. Annual banding and monitoring efforts include:

Fall Migration Monitoring

Fall migration monitoring began in 2009 at the west end of Kiawah Island at the KIBS.  The station is located within scrub-shrub and high marsh habitat and bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and the Kiawah River, creating a funnel for migratory birds. Currently, 20 mist nets are opperated by the Town Wildife Biologist and four interns hired seasonally by the Kiawah Conservancy.  The nets are opperated daily from mid-August through November. They are opened 30 minutes before sunrise and closed approximately six hours later.

Winter Banding

Winter banding began in 2010.  During this banding season, up to 15 nets are operated every 10 days from December through March.  The nets are opened 30 minutes before sunrise and closed approximately six hours later. 

Sea Island Christmas Bird Count

The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is a volunteer-based bird census conducted annually each winter. The National Audubon Society has sponsored the event since 1900 when the first CBCs were held. Currently there are over 2,000 CBCs conducted internationally every year between December 14 and January 5.  Each count takes place around the same date each year and all birds seen or heard are counted within a designated 15-mile diameter circle. The data from each count are compiled by the National Audubon Society and the results are provided in an annual journal called American Birds. The Sea Islands CBC was first conducted during the 2011-2012 CBC season as a test run. It was a great success and has been an official CBC since 2013. The 2016 count will take place on January 4. The count encompasses all of Kiawah Island, Seabrook Island, Wadmalaw Island, most of John's Island, and Deveaux Bank. Participants are assigned to one of 15 territories and spend the day covering the area by car, foot, or boat starting at or before sunrise and going through dusk or later. Participants typically meet back at the Kiawah Island Town Hall for a "Count-down" dinner and refreshments provided by the Kiawah Conservancy. Persons interested in participating in the Sea Island CBC should contact, Aaron Given at agiven@kiawahisland.org or 843-478-4264.

Winter Marsh Sparrow Banding

Marsh sparrow banding began during the winter of  2011-12 with the objective of determining habitat requirements, site fidelity, relative abundance and distribution of the species.  The birds are flushed into mist nets at high tide roosts in the salt marsh.  The target species are seaside sparrows, Nelson's sparrows and saltmarsh sparrows. 

Painted Bunting Banding

Painted bunting banding began in the summer of 2011 with the objective to study their movements, distribution and site fidelity. Painted buntings readily come to feeders offering white millet and the birds are easily captured in a specially designed cage with a feeder placed inside. Banding occurs from May thorugh September at Kiawah Island's resident's homes.

Learn more about the Kiawah Island Banding Station at www.kiawahisland.org/wildlife/bird-banding/.