Volunteer Spotlight: SERC Nest Box Monitors

Posted by KristenM on August 4th, 2015
bluebox_MattStorms

A bluebird in a nest box.
(Matt Storms)

by Caroline Kanaskie

The Bluebird Project is one of my big focuses as the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center’s (SERC) citizen science intern. While organizing and analyzing data collected by citizen scientists, I can’t help but imagine the countless hours spent walking the trail between nest boxes from March to September that created this robust data set.

I want to show my appreciation by highlighting three wonderful volunteers involved with the Bluebird Project: Annie Johnson, Judy Bissett, and Dave Gillum.

Annie Johnson: “Birds have become a natural subject to study with my fourth graders. They eat this stuff up!”

Annie Johnson: “Birds have become a natural subject to study with my fourth graders. They eat this stuff up!” (Courtesy of Annie Johnson)

Annie Johnson

The Educator

Annie is an elementary school teacher and avid bird watcher. What better way to combine her two passions than by bringing the Bluebird Project into the classroom? From life cycles to the struggle for survival, Annie’s students keep up with the birds at SERC and learn how animals interact with their environment. She hopes to bring her students to SERC so they can see nature in action.

“Seeing life spring forth from those beautiful little eggs is amazing,” said Johnson as she reflected on the first time she saw bluebird hatchlings. It brought tears to her eyes, and still does.

 Judy Bissett: “I love watching new life grow and discovering things I didn’t know before.”

Judy Bissett: “I love watching new life grow and discovering things I didn’t know before.”
(Courtesy of Judy Bissett)

Judy Bissett

The Explorer

Johnson introduced Bissett to birding and, soon enough, she was hooked. Bissett bought a camera and embarked on a photography journey—she documents her birding adventures on her blog.

This is Bissett’s first year monitoring nest boxes at SERC, but she has seen its power in other places as well. “One only has to look at the history of bluebird monitoring to recognize how a concerted effort to provide appropriate nesting sites, food sources, and habitat can help a threatened or declining species,” she says. “What if we could identify another indigenous bird species that is threatened or in decline and use the resources at SERC to provide nesting sites or plant food sources or habitat?”

Dave Gillum

Trail Master

Several bluebird boxes lining Contees Wharf Road caught Gillum’s eye as he drove into SERC’s main campus. Soon after, he became our bluebird trail master. Dave has always had an interest in birds and is active with the Maryland Bluebird Society. Even after monitoring bluebirds for seven years, he still considers it a privilege to be able to walk the trail. As a result of his dedication to the project, Gillum said, “I find that I am much more observant of nature and take the time to watch behavior, rather than simply identify wildlife.” Dave hopes that bird banding can expand the data collected on the trail in the future.

Dave Gillum: “Watching the young birds from hatch to fledge is always a thrilling experience.”

Dave Gillum: “Watching the young birds from hatch to fledge is always a thrilling experience.”
(Karen McDonald/SERC)

Annie, Dave, and Judy are essential to the success and continuation of citizen science projects like the Bluebird Project. They collect important data about our birds and they are the eyes and ears of SERC out on the trail. We can’t thank them enough for the work they do!

 

1 Comments so far ↓

  1. What a great group of volunteers! We have a similar bunch at Sky Meadows State Park in VA — I thought you might enjoy reading about their bluebird box trail: http://www.greenmomster.org/2015/04/whats-going-on-in-those-boxes.html

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