In this feature, AWWI program leaders give a behind-the-scenes look at their work.
This month, Outreach Manager Paige Johnson chats with Dr. John Lloyd, AWWI Associate Director of Research.
Paige: Since joining AWWI as Associate Director of Research in March of 2019, what is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about wind and wildlife?
John: I have learned about how dynamic this field of research is. Since I started in March 2019, I have twice updated AWWI’s summary of wind power interactions with wildlife – a summary of what is known about interactions between wind energy and wildlife – and it is really fascinating to see how our understanding of key issues, and what the issues are, progresses year to year. We are learning and gaining insights all the time, it’s incredibly interesting.
Paige: The 2020 update to the summary is slated for release in June. What does the process of updating it every year entail?
John: The process starts in late winter. We collect new research published over the last year, and collaborate with AWWI’s Science Advisors who provide guidance on important publications to review. Once all the literature is collected, we synthesize it and identify what we’ve learned since the last update.
The summary is a great resource because it summarizes and translates a pretty large body of scientific research into a short document that is easy to digest. Practitioners don’t have time to wade through and think about the implications of 30 or 40 new research articles every year, so we try to do that for them. The document is organized by a series of statements followed by supporting evidence on what we know and what we don’t know to help answer pressing questions. It takes really complicated issues and makes them easier to understand.
Paige: What are new things we’ve learned since the 2019 update?
John: There were two things that I thought were particularly exciting. First, there have been some really promising results around experimental tests of acoustic deterrents intended to keep bats away from turbines. Results showed that two different kinds of acoustic deterrents were pretty effective at deterring bats at different facilities. I found this really interesting and quite encouraging.
Second, we’re learning more about how lesser prairie-chickens (LEPC) respond to wind energy. In a multi-year study at a wind facility in Kansas, LEPC appeared pretty tolerant of a facility constructed in a previously disturbed (largely agricultural) landscape. It was exciting to collect information on a species that is not well studied but is of interest to many stakeholders.
Paige: From a scientific standpoint, what do you think are some of the biggest challenges for wind-wildlife research?
John: A challenge that continues to strike me is the speed at which we have to make progress. To mitigate climate change, we need a significant expansion of renewables, including wind, in the next few decades, and to achieve this we will need some major advances in research. At times this can feel daunting as many types of studies need to take place over long periods of time. For example, effects of new infrastructure on prairie grouse could take five or more years to show up. Meanwhile, there will be other impacts to those landscapes. It raises the question of how we can learn enough about these processes that unfold slowly when we don’t have much time.
Paige: Are there opportunities for AWWI’s research team and collaborators, and others working in wind-wildlife research, to meet these challenges?
John: Absolutely. This field has an intersection of interests that could be, and has been, contentious at times. But we’re so lucky to have so many in this space coming together, which is a key part of AWWI’s role. Seeing collaboration between industry, conservation, state and federal agencies, and others is really rare. But these parties have come together to co-create research that enables us to change the natural world for the better. We are working together, defining our collective priorities, addressing key questions, and translating that back to action in our collective communities. It is heartening to see so many stakeholders willing to work together in this way for the greater good.
Learn more about AWWI’s research program: Contact John Lloyd at email@example.com