Celebrating a Century of Perseverance: NTU Centennial Series Events Unveiled
Professor Yuan with another awardee, Director Cheng-Yan Chen (front left), Dr. Chung-Hang Hong (back middle), and two recommenders from Oregon State University, taking a group photo after receiving the PSG Special Achievement Award from the Pacific Seabird Group.
Black-billed terns, adults and juveniles.
Prof. Hsiao-Wei Yuan (袁孝維), Vice President of International Affairs and Professor from the School of Forestry and Resource Conservation, has been leading a team since 2003 to collaborate internationally in tracking and protecting the Chinese Crested Tern, a mythical bird species with less than 100 remaining individuals. Thanks to their efforts, the population of this species has doubled. Through her advocacy, international attention has been drawn to the conservation of this species, showcasing Taiwan's efforts in maintaining biodiversity and contributing to crucial research results. As such, at the 50th Pacific Seabird Group Annual Meeting held in February 2023 at the University of California, San Diego, Professor Yuan was presented the Special Achievement Award together with Shui-Hua Chen (陳水華), the Director of the Zhejiang Provincial Museum in mainland China, and Cheng-Yan Chen (陳承彥), the Director of the Wild Bird Society of Japan. During the award ceremony, the audience stood up and applauded, expressing their admiration for the 20-year persistent collaboration and achievements of these three scholars.
The Chinese Crested Tern, also known as the “mythical bird,” was only sporadically recorded after its initial naming in 1861 and was thought to be extinct. It wasn’t until 2000 when Director Jie-De Liang (梁皆得) filmed the “Matsu Islands Tern Reserve” ecological documentary that the bird was rediscovered. Chinese Crested Terns are migratory birds that breed in colonies on uninhabited islands and are easily disturbed, leading to abandonment of nests. As bird migration knows no borders, international conservation cooperation is crucial for their protection. Professor Yuan first collected basic data in Taiwan and, in 2006, together with Shui-Hua Chen and Cheng-Yen Chen, drafted the “International Action Plan for the Conservation of the Chinese Crested Tern” for BirdLife International, which outlined conservation goals and short-, medium-, and long-term strategies.
However, the fate of the Chinese Crested Tern has not been smooth sailing. Climate change has led to a shortage of fish resources, and their breeding habitats have been disturbed by illegal fishing or island visits by fishermen. In recent years, there have been repeated instances of complete abandonment of nests in the Matsu Islands. While there are still breeding populations of the tern in other areas, the research team hopes to rediscover this mythical bird in its ancestral home of Matsu. Professor Yuan stated that receiving the award is only a recognition of the research team’s efforts, and that the task of protecting marine ecology, not just the Chinese Crested Tern, is just beginning.