Summary: Avian Influenza (AI) Workshop Russian Far East

Feb. 13-14 2006

This workshop brought UAF researchers together with local avian experts and ornithologists working in Russian Far East and Hokkaido , Japan . These collaborators are known for many years to the UAF researcher, Falk Huettmann from previous expeditions investigating bird migration issues along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. This gigantic flyway connects Alaska and Russia with Asia ( India , Vietnam , China , Korea , Philippines , Indonesia , Papua New Guinea ) and Australia and New Zealand . The flyway is still poorly known and studied, and therefore requires investigations at key sites to better understand where birds are coming from, whether they carry Avian Influenza (AI) and how they manage to migrate along such a vast area without harm. We have first indications from Australian bird banding and flagging data that some birds make such a long migration twice a year and for over 10 years even! Other information shows that Alaska has birds wintering in China and along the entire flyway. It is very likely that this flyway has many more secrets and mysteries to offer which contribute greatly to our understanding of AI.

Therefore, for the outlined strategic study sites below the following individuals were invited:

Kamchatka (lead by Alexey Druzyaka, Novosibirsk ; species: shorebirds, passerines, seabirds and waterfowl)

Sakhalin Island (lead by Vladimir Zykov, Yushnow-Sakhalinsk; species: passerines, seabirds and waterfowl)

Kurile Islands, Iturup (lead by Ekatarina Matsina, Novgorod ; species: passerines, seabirds and waterfowl)

Amur River (lead by Aleksey Antonov, Khabarvosk; species: shorebirds, passerines, seabirds)

Vladivostok (lead by Nikita Chernetsov, St. Petersburg ; species: passerines, seabirds)

Japan ( Hokkaido ) (lead by Kaisuke Saito , Japan ; species: Dunlin, passerines, raptors, waterfowl)

A key purpose of this workshop was to build linkages and contacts between the UAF AI core group (consisting of George Happ, Jonathan Rundstadler, Falk Huettmann and Teresa Lyons) with the Russian group of co-workers. This goal was very well achieved during the meetings as well as at the Welcoming Banquet. The excellent travel arrangements made by INBRE/EPSCOR, Dottie Moss, went flawlessly and contributed further to the nice atmosphere at this meeting. One representative from Sakhalin Island (V. Zykov) could not join the meeting but provided his firm commitment in writing.

After introductions and overviews by the Project Leaders, presentations were given by each of the five participants regarding their proposed field sampling site, its set up and bird species. Further, project details were discussed with the group, resulting into a high degree of familiarity with the project and field sites among all participants. A group dinner rounded off this eventful first day.

The second day provided an in depth opportunity to discuss the field techniques on how to conserve and to transfer AI samples. This was done together with the INBRE staff resulting in a high degree of compatibility among field sites and highest data quality for analyzing AI samples from the field in the lab. Another section of this session dealt with protocol adjustments so that compatible data are collected beyond the AI sampling. Such data are crucial for bird banding information (shared among participants), but also to learn more about bird migration and biology in order to trace down origins of potential virus allowing for actions in affected areas.

Copyrights were discussed, agreed on and finalized, resulting into a list of shared publications with a high impact factor, as well as shared bird measurement data, photos etc.

The Vladivostok region will be covered by the bird banding lab by Olga Valchuck; Nikita Chernetsov will remain available to us as a project advisor, collaborator and co-author.

Another opportunity arose for additional Kamchatka samples collected by Misha Markovets, Biological Station Rybachy, housed at the University of St. Petersburg . This option was agreed on after the workshop.

Last but not least, contract details were discussed with each Russian Co-Worker, and a draft Memo of Understanding (MOU) was discussed and agreed upon. This MOU is currently under final negotiation from the participating parties, and is about to be signed prior to the field season.

We agreed to accept an invitation in Novosibirsk for a follow-up and review meeting in November 2006 after the first field season. In addition, the Novosibirsk group will likely support the AI sample export as well.

The successful workshop ended with a social dinner where also relevant members from the Ornithological and Russian community in Alaska , including students, were invited in order to increase our network of contacts further.

Falk Huettmann, Fairbanks 20th February 2006

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