Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education plays an important role in animal conservation, and these efforts are now more critical than ever. This is because, according to the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, a mass extinction of animal species is occurring worldwide. As a result, researchers and wildlife conservationists are turning to STEM- and technology-based solutions to prevent further animal losses. For example, computer science researchers are using artificial intelligence (AI) to save wildlife from extinction.
Science and education are also integral to groups such as the National Audubon Society, which combines these components with advocacy to protect birds and their habitats. In order to develop a new generation of conservation leaders and scientists, Audubon established the Audubon Campus Chapter program. As part of this initiative, college and university students are invited to form Audubon student conservation chapters at their campuses, which enable them to develop leadership skills and support bird-conservation efforts. Read on to learn more about the Audubon Campus Chapter program and three of its recognized chapters.
About the Audubon on Campus Program
Launched in late 2018, the Audubon Campus Chapter program provides students with the resources to undertake Audubon efforts on campus and opportunities to collaborate with the organization’s local centers, state offices, and chapters. Campus chapters that obtain formal recognition from Audubon can also access the organization’s internal social network to receive additional support in leading bird-conservation actions. This is a particularly important issue given a 2019 study on bird groups published in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) journal Science that revealed massive declines in the US and Canadian bird population over the last 50 years.
Each Audubon conservation chapter must comply with its college or university’s official guidelines, including the requirement for a sponsoring faculty or staff member to serve as a sponsor. Additionally, each chapter must engage in at least one conservation action each year. This can involve activities such as participating in a local bird count to help track bird populations, planting a bird-friendly garden on campus with native plants to attract and protect birds, or advocating for bird-safe buildings to help prevent migrating birds from flying into building windows.
As of November 2019, Audubon has accepted 100 student conservation chapters into the Audubon Campus Chapter program. Read on to learn more about the chapters at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Rust College, and the University of Mississippi in Oxford.
The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
The Audubon campus chapter at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (UW-Green Bay) was recognized for becoming the first Audubon Campus Chapter to be established in the nation. It is sponsored by UW-Green Bay staff member Erin Giese, who is a senior research specialist at the UW-Green Bay Cofrin Center for Biodiversity. In this role, she offers guidance to students interested in birds.
Since its inception, the UW-Green Bay chapter has participated in various activities that include tidying up outdoor raptor exhibits at the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary and cleaning bird feeders at a Wild Birds Unlimited store. Additionally, the group, which conducted a window collision survey on campus in 2019 to determine which buildings are the most dangerous for migrating birds, has observed peregrine falcons that nest at the university’s David A. Cofrin Library.
At Rust College, a historically black college and university in Holly Springs, Mississippi, the Birds of a Feather Audubon chapter was certified by Audubon in the summer of 2019. The establishment of the chapter at the college helped to advance Audubon’s efforts to offer conservation resources and greater opportunities to underrepresented groups, which is among the organization’s goals.
One conservation effort that the Birds of a Feather chapter previously participated in involved providing outreach and education at the Strawberry Plains Audubon Center’s 20th Hummingbird Migration and Nature Celebration alongside members of the Magnolia Grove chapter. Soon after, Birds of a Feather met with the Ole Miss chapter again at Strawberry Plains to assist in banding migrating birds.
The University of Mississippi in Oxford
The Magnolia Grove Campus Audubon Chapter at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) in Oxford joined the campus program in April 2019, which made it the first Audubon Campus Chapter in the state. Ole Miss student Rachel Anderson, a biology major, is the chapter’s first president. She formed the idea of starting it while volunteering for the nonprofit Delta Wind Birds and committed to her role after she heard Audubon board member Drew Lanham speak. Motivated by his words on improving communities and inspired by her own care for the local environment and surrounding area, Anderson resolved to help her fellow students to make a difference in their community.
One of the early sustainability and conservation activities that the chapter engaged in was the 2019 Green Week event on campus. They also joined Lanham on a bird walk at the former home of author William Faulkner. A few months later, chapter members helped to manage Audubon’s tent at the Strawberry Plains Audubon Center’s 20th annual Hummingbird Migration and Nature Celebration. During the multi-day event, they provided education and outreach to festival attendees. The Magnolia Grove Chapter also assisted Strawberry Plains in banding migrating birds a week after the festival.