Cooperative Work Among Companies Creates Ecological and Community Connectivity in Northwest Indiana

By Colleen Beaty, Conservation Content Writer|January 28, 2016

On Thursday, January 21, about 15 volunteers from a diverse group of companies and conservation organizations, including WHC and members of the Indiana Coastal Cooperative Weed Management Group as well as the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, ExxonMobil, ArcelorMittal, PRAXAIR, the Coffee Creek Watershed Conservancy, and the Shirley Heinze Land Trust, joined up to tackle the removal of invasive species from upland areas at ExxonMobil’s Hammond Terminal.

It can be difficult to find larger tracts of dune and swale habitat in natural or even semi-natural conditions in Indiana’s coastal region because of heavy urban and industrial development. Hammond TerminalThe 77-acre Hammond Terminal property includes a large amount of this critical Lake Michigan coastal habitat, so although former industrial uses left their mark on the site more than 50 years ago, it remains one of the most important tracts of shorebird habitat in the region and is key piece of the conservation and landscape connectivity puzzle.

The focus of invasive removal at last week’s workday was buckthorn, a non-native, invasive shrub that is a common invader in Midwestern forests, prairies, and oak savannas. The volunteers used a technique known as the “cut-stump method” in which the shrubs are cut down and herbicide applied to the stump to prevent regrowth. Also on the agenda was laying the ground for a new trail that will be used by East Chicago students and bird watching visitors.

During the workday, the group shared their common knowledge and experience of working on site and along the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal, and learned that slag had been deposited on-site as far back as the 1940s and since then, a succession of native habitats developed throughout the site. The spread of invasive plants such as buckthorn, phragmites, purple loosestrife, and many others have impacted the ecological quality of this site over the past 10 years. Efforts to develop an ecological restoration partnership between the Indiana DNR, ExxonMobil, and BP have provided a unique regional example of how companies and natural resource agencies can work together to increase conservation in urban-industrial areas.

A volunteer applies Pathfinder herbicide to a buckthorn stump. The herbicide is dyed blue to help volunteers see which plants have already been treated.

A volunteer applies Pathfinder herbicide to a buckthorn stump. The herbicide is dyed blue to help volunteers see which plants have already been treated.

This cooperative workday at the Hammond Terminal is part of a larger ongoing collaborative effort, funded by Sustain Our Great Lakes Program and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to the Indiana DNR, to control invasive species and restore native habitats on public and private properties areas along the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal. Other companies involved in this invasive species control partnership include BP and Valero. WHC is also working with ExxonMobil, ArcelorMittal, PRAXAIR, and Kinder Morgan on developing invasive species control programs on their working facilities under a grant from the Indiana DNR Coastal Program and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA). Working collaboratively like this helps companies enhance the conservation value of their projects by aligning them with broader goals for the region. It also helps teams learn from one another by providing opportunities to share information about what worked and what didn’t.

For more details on how your company can contribute to conservation efforts in your area, contact WHC for tailored help or check out our Project Guidances for guidelines on designing and implementing conservation and education projects.

Wildlife Habitat Council, Freeport-McMoRan and Oldcastle Leadership Selected to Speak at GreenBiz ’16

By Monica Keller, Director, Marketing and Communications|January 22, 2016

PHOENIX, JANUARY 13, 2016 – Margaret O’Gorman, President, Wildlife Habitat Council has been selected as a featured speaker at the GreenBiz 16, to be held February 23-25, 2016. O’Gorman, along with Hillary A. Johnson, Community Relations Director, Oldcastle, Inc., and William E. Cobb, Vice President, Environmental Services, Freeport-McMoRan Inc., will present on how to effectively incorporate conservation programs into corporate strategies.

For the third year, the Forum will bring together GreenBiz Group, The Sustainability Consortium, and the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU to give attendees an unparalleled in-depth look at the key challenges and opportunities facing sustainable business today. The ninth annual edition of the State of Green Business report, combined with high-wattage stage presentations, workshops and networking opportunities will make the 2016 GreenBiz Forum an unforgettable event.

O’Gorman, Johnson and Cobb will be a part of the session, “The New Standard in Corporate Conservation: Embracing Accessibility, Enhancing Credibility and Driving Change.” The workshop will address on-the-ground conservation programs that enhance biodiversity and promote corporate goals, including those related to social responsibility, sustainability, employee engagement, community relations and STEM education. Attendees will benefit from the panel’s experience in aligning voluntary sustainability standards with contemporary conservation priorities and actions, and how to use data and results allow for evaluation of impact.

View speaker bios.

Presentation Details

What: The New Standard in Corporate Conservation: Embracing Accessibility, Enhancing Credibility and Driving Change

When: Wednesday, February 24, 2016, 4:30pm

Where: The JW Marriott Camelback Inn, 5402 East Lincoln Drive, Scottsdale, AZ 85253

Produced by media company GreenBiz Group, the GreenBiz Forum will also feature The Sustainability Consortium CEO, Sheila Bonini; Ellen MacArthur Foundation Founder, Ellen MacArthur; Project Drawdown Founder, Paul Hawken; Biomimicry Institute Founder, Janine Benyus; Conservation International Executive VP & Senior Scientist, Dr. M Sanjayan; Disney SVP Environmental Affairs, Beth Stevens; Steelcase CEO, Jim Keane; PwC Chief Purpose Officer, Shannon Schuyler; JLL President & CEO, Colin Dyer, and many more speakers from a wide range of corporations, startups, think tanks, policy groups, and others.

For more information on the the GreenBiz Forum and conference agenda, visit the GreenBiz website

About Wildlife Habitat Council

Wildlife Habitat Council promotes and certifies habitat conservation and management on corporate lands through partnerships and education. WHC’s programs take corporate sustainability goals and objectives and translate them into tangible and measurable on-the-ground actions. Through a focus on building collaboration for conservation with corporate employees, other conservation organizations, government agencies and community members, WHC programs focus on healthy ecosystems and connected communities. WHC-assisted wildlife habitat and conservation education programs are found in 45 states, the District of Columbia and 13 countries.

About Freeport-McMoRan, Inc. (FCX)

Freeport-McMoRan Inc. (NYSE: FCX) is a premier U.S.-based natural resources company with an industry-leading global portfolio of mineral assets, significant oil and gas resources and a growing production profile. FCX is the world’s largest publicly traded copper producer.

FCX’s portfolio of assets includes the Grasberg minerals district in Indonesia, one of the world’s largest copper and gold deposits; significant mining operations in the Americas, including the large-scale Morenci minerals district in North America and the Cerro Verde operation in South America; the Tenke Fungurume minerals district in the DRC; and significant U.S. oil and natural gas assets in the Deepwater GOM, onshore and offshore California and in the Haynesville natural gas shale, and a position in the Inboard Lower Tertiary/Cretaceous natural gas trend onshore in South Louisiana.

About Oldcastle Materials Inc.

Oldcastle Materials, based in Atlanta, Ga., is the leading vertically integrated supplier of aggregates, asphalt, ready-mixed concrete and construction services in the United States. The company employs nearly 18,000 people at more than 1,200 locations in 44 states and has a strong commitment to providing exceptional quality, service and value to customers. Oldcastle Materials combines the flexibility, speed and in-depth market knowledge of local businesses with the buying power, shared expertise and operational excellence of a national network. The company is focused on the safety of its employees and works to be an engaged partner in the communities where it operates. Oldcastle Materials operates under Oldcastle Inc. a division of CRH plc, the international building materials group based in Dublin, Ireland.


Unusual Places with Unexpected Partners: Welcoming All-Comers to Restore, Improve and Protect Nature

By Margaret O’Gorman, President|January 20, 2016

WL_American Alligator Hatchling_Formosa

American alligator hatchling

I recently had the honor and pleasure of meeting Mary Robinson, the former and first woman president of Ireland, a global advocate for women and children and a leader in climate change justice. She was fresh from the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris and optimistic about the result. As we talked, she told me that the two forces that could make a huge difference in progress toward COP21 goals were women and business. She felt it essential to harness the passion and power of women who, in the developing world, will be hardest hit by a changing climate, and to harness the power of business to create passion and momentum toward the goal of keeping global temperature rise significantly beneath 2 degrees Celsius.

Her exhortation that business is an essential player in this issue echoes so many others who are beginning to understand that business has, for many reasons, a key role to play in protecting our planet.

Wildlife Habitat Council’s mission is to facilitate business playing this key role with respect to biodiversity and the conservation of nature. Our “big tent” approach welcomes all-comers who want to work with us to restore, improve or protect nature.

If a company wants to act to improve its lands for nature, we want to encourage and enable them to do so, whatever the scope of their aspirations. We do this by working with them to design strong and appropriate projects and recognize their efforts. When we evaluate projects, we evaluate their impacts on nature, employees and community.

Our unstated mission is to place upward pressure on industry to adopt better practices in their operations and on their lands. We do this not by advocacy, policy or litigation, but through “show and tell,” by working with the individuals on the ground who conceive of the projects, implement them, own them and transmit their successes up through the corporate chain. Once this is repeated across locations within a company, it can become embedded in the culture of the company and lead to fundamental changes in both culture and operations. Imagine if conservation programs on corporate lands become as common as recycling in corporate offices. That’s the goal.

In terms of conservation outcomes, there are some compelling reasons to work where others may fear to tread:

Every act of conservation matters. A tree planted in the ground at a corporate campus, a ready-mix facility, or a restored quarry can be as valuable as a tree planted in protected woodlands. Habitat destruction and fragmentation remain the leading causes of biodiversity loss across the world, and by doing acts of conservation along the entire urban-rural spectrum, in unusual places with unexpected partners, we help create a mosaic of nature that fills the spaces in between, provides connectivity and increases population resilience.

Opportunity knocks on corporate lands. Natural resources extraction carried out by business leads to restoration, which can in turn lead to opportunities for ecological enhancement. Site clean-up and remediation, mainly the responsibility of business, can result in quality conservation outcomes. Maintenance and operations on corporate campuses and manufacturing sites can be altered to benefit nature by changing landscape management regimes to increase native plants or altering the movement of goods and materials to break invasive species pathways. Every corporate property has the potential to contribute.

Not all communities are created equally. Not every community has a well-endowed park, a vibrant nature center or easy access to safe outdoor recreational activities. In under-served rural and urban settings, corporate lands can provide a lake to take a child fishing, a nature center to teach environmental basics, or a trail to encourage exercise and provide the physical and mental health benefits of being in the natural world. By recognizing high-quality access and education, we encourage other businesses to open their doors and become true members of the community.

Most everything we buy, eat, wear, drive, look at or listen to is made by a company in a facility somewhere with the potential to contribute to biodiversity in a large or small way. Our approach is to help this contribution happen, recognize it when it does, and hope that the recognition in turn contributes to the program’s longevity.

There are many roads along which we all try to better the world. In the environmental community, some groups advance the cause of a healthier environment through litigation, regulatory change and advocacy. Some promote the road of direct action while others advance the cause through education and public awareness. WHC’s road is, with apologies to Robert Frost, less traveled but engaging business in conservation can make all the difference.

The Carbon-Sequestering Power of Soils

By Colleen Beaty, Conservation Content Writer|January 10, 2016

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts about soil.

Big bluestem is one of many deep-rooted prairie grasses in North America that can contribute to soil carbon sequestration.

Earlier this year, scientists announced that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere had reached a record high of 400 parts per million (ppm), more than 120 ppm higher than pre-industrial carbon levels. It seems fitting, then, that I end this blog series with a post about the carbon-sequestering power of soils.

Carbon sequestration is the process by which carbon dioxide is moved from the atmosphere into a non-gaseous form, such as plant matter. Plants do this well, using sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into sugars and other compounds that ultimately turn into plant tissues. When more carbon is absorbed then released, the system is considered a carbon sink; the opposite, when a system releases more carbon than absorbs, is considered a carbon source.

When plants die, they decay and become part of the soil. Over time, this process allows soils to store large amounts of carbon and serve as carbon sinks, especially in soils where the decay of organic matter back into carbon dioxide is slow, such as colder regions and areas with low soil disturbance.

Prairie soils can be particularly good carbon sinks. Prairie grasses and wildflowers develop deep, extensive root systems; some prairie plants grow roots up to 15 feet deep! As these root systems decay, organic matter in the soil builds up relatively quickly. In fact, prairies can store more carbon underground than forests can store in trees aboveground.

Corporate conservation programs can help contribute to soil carbon sequestration in a number of ways. As mentioned above, planting native vegetation that is good at sequestering carbon, including trees and deep-rooted grasses and wildflowers, is a great way to do this. Teams can also manage existing habitats in ways that reduce soil disturbance and erosion, improve soil structure, and increase soil organic matter.

So the next time you hear about atmospheric carbon levels, consider how the soil under our feet is so closely linked to the air above our heads!

6 Tricks for Better Species Identification

By Colleen Beaty, Conservation Content Writer|January 9, 2016

P_boy with bird book_Amway_square2Learning how to identify plants and animals–especially when you’re first starting out with a conservation project—can be seem pretty daunting at first. Once you get the hang of it, though, I promise it gets much easier! Here’s a list of six tricks I use all the time when I’m trying to identify wildlife in the field.

  1. First, get yourself some handy identification tools.

There are so many species, how could one possibly learn what they all look like?  Answer – you don’t.  Instead, you learn how to use tools like field guides that will help you figure out which species you’re looking at.  Field guides are generally designed to be small enough to carry around while also providing an identification tips for a group of species like birds.  There are also numerous apps for your smartphone that can supplement or replace field guides, like Audubon’s bird guide app and LeafSnap.

  1. Take photos!

Take photos of the animals and plants you see, especially if you aren’t sure what species it is.  You can then examine the photo in detail and zoom in on your computer’s monitor, and take as much time as you need to compare it to books and online guides.  You can also submit photos to a variety of experts online who can help with difficult identifications, such as or a local naturalist.

  1. Get expert help in the field.

In addition to getting help with identifying species you photographed, it can also be advantageous to have one or more experts with you in the field while you are monitoring your project.  They can give you hands-on training in implementing a monitoring technique for your project as well as with in-the-field identification.

  1. Learn how to “break it down” into manageable parts.

One of the best ways to keep from feeling overwhelmed by everything going on with the way a species looks or sounds is learning how to “break down” each plant or animal into a bunch of manageable “parts” that will help you identify it. So if you’re trying to figure out which bird you’re seeing, you can break down the visual observation into things like relative size, bill length, bill shape, tail shape, colors on various parts of the body, and distinctive markings.  Animal songs and calls can be similarly broken down into things like pitch, rhythm, melody and harmonics, complexity, tone, timbre, and mnemonic association.

  1. Use all of your senses to observe plants and animals.

The most common way to identify plants and animals is by sight, of course but your other senses can help you too.  Many animals sing, call, or make other noises, and with some practice it can be easy to distinguish many of the common bird songs, frog and mammal calls, and such.  Some species have a distinctive smell, such the lemony odor released by lemon beebalm when its leaves are crushed, or that very distinctively noxious odor when a skunk sprays to protect itself.  Touch and taste can also be useful for helping identify certain plants, such as rough tree bark or minty-tasting leaves (taste should be used with lots of caution, however, as many wild plants can be poisonous!)

  1. Consider your location.

Remember, species occur within specific ranges and habitat types.  The species you might find when you’re out on your company’s land will therefore depend a great deal on where you are in the world and what habitat you’re looking at.  You wouldn’t find a tropical marsh bird in a temperate desert, now would you?

I hope these tricks give you the confidence you need to go out there and try your hand at species ID!

Caribou Who?

By Colleen Beaty, Conservation Content Writer|December 10, 2015

With the winter holidays fast approaching, I thought it would be fun to write about caribou, which most people know by their other name—reindeer.

Source: USFWS

Source: USFWS

Reindeer live in the northern latitudes of North America, Europe, and Asia. They are divided into several subspecies, based upon habitat (woodland or tundra) and location.

Reindeer are pretty unique, for several reasons. For starters, they are the only species of mammal that can see ultraviolet light. How cool is that? It helps reindeer to better see things like white fur (like Arctic wolves) in the glowing white of the Arctic region that they might otherwise miss.

Their eating habits also make them pretty distinctive. They are the only large mammal able to eat lichen because of specialized gut flora that helps them metabolize it.

Reindeer moss is a type of lichen and is a favorite food for reindeer. Source: Wacker Chemical Corporation

Reindeer moss is a type of lichen and is a favorite food for reindeer. Source: Wacker Chemical Corporation

Their reliance on lichen as a winter food source means they require plenty of undisturbed, lichen rich habitat, but unfortunately, climate change and other factors are causing this critical habitat to disappear all too quickly.

In most subspecies of reindeer, box sexes grow antlers, which is unique among deer. They also have the largest antlers relative to body size of all deer species. They can measure up to 51 inches long and 33 pounds! Male reindeer shed their antlers at the end of the mating season in early December, while females retain theirs throughout the winter until they give birth in the spring.

That’s right, folks – if the many depictions of Santa’s antlered reindeer are correct, that means Santa’s reindeer are all females. (I suppose it’s a good thing they all have gender-neutral names! Well, except for poor Rudolph.)

Observations of reindeer actually flying have yet to occur, though.

If you’d like to see reindeer in action, check out the Reindeer Cam at the Como Park Zoo & Observatory.

Wildlife Habitat Council Unveils New Certification Program, Brand Identity and Website at WHC Conservation Conference 2015

By Monica Keller, Director, Marketing and Communications|November 11, 2015

SILVER SPRING, MD, November 11, 2015 – Today, Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) President, Margaret O’Gorman, unveiled Wildlife Habitat Council Conservation Certification, WHC’s new certification program. She also officially launched the new WHC brand identity and website.

WHC Conservation Certification recognizes meaningful and committed natural resource conservation programs on corporate lands. Programs that meet the established criteria are eligible for recognition through Conservation Certification, which provides a unique third-party, validation that attests to the quality of the conservation programs.

“WHC Conservation Certification sets the standard for corporate conservation,” said O’Gorman. “It provides a clear and consistent path towards high quality projects that bring value to both people and planet. Built around 25 possible habitat, species and education projects encompassed in the newly published Project Guidances, the new standard is designed to be accessible, flexible, credible, and ultimately drive change on corporate lands of all types.”

“There are many aspects of the new standard that appeal,” said WHC Board Chair Kevin Butt, General Manager and Chief Environmental Officer, Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. “At the operational level, the Project Guidances provide a robust resource for project implementation, while the data collection through the online application provides many exciting reporting opportunities at the corporate level.”

The specifics of the standard set out in the Project Guidances, like the conservation objectives and the higher-level action strategies were developed with external stakeholders from government, NGO, education, academia and consulting firms and define the components of a strong project and the conditions that deem a project outstanding through Conservation Certification.

In addition to the launch of Conservation Certification, WHC unveiled its first rebrand in is 26 year history. The new brand serves to more closely align WHC with the innovative companies and organizations it serves. The key components of the new brand identity include a new logo and the new tagline: “Every act of conservation matters.”  Specific features of the logo include:

  • The leaf representing nature or habitat. The leaf evolves into a circle and an arrow indicating flow or an ongoing process.
  • The circle connects and encapsulates the other features, showing how they are part of a larger, holistic global system.
  • The dark blue shape represents the built environment and the people associated with Wildlife Habitat Council programs. It is constructed of building blocks, which also convey process and growth.
  • The light blue field under the building represents clean water, an essential component of successful conservation and habitat restoration programs.

“Both the brand and its assets – the logo, the website, the language, the graphics – convey a clear and concise message about Wildlife Habitat Council,” said Monica Keller, Director, Marketing and Communications. “That we help corporations implement conservation and education projects on their lands, we recognize this work through our certification standard, and we communicate the impacts.”

The Conservation Certification online application will go live in early 2016.

About Wildlife Habitat Council

Wildlife Habitat Council promotes and certifies habitat conservation and management on corporate lands through partnerships and education. WHC’s programs take corporate sustainability goals and objectives and translate them into tangible and measurable on-the-ground actions. Through a focus on building collaboration for conservation with corporate employees, other conservation organizations, government agencies and community members, WHC programs focus on healthy ecosystems and connected communities. WHC-assisted wildlife habitat and conservation education programs are found in 45 states, the District of Columbia and 13 countries.

Contact:  Patricia Leidemer, Wildlife Habitat Council, 240.247.0933,


Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. Hosts Annual Symposium for Environment and Education

By Katie Basiotis, Conservation Specialist|October 31, 2015

For 21 years, Wheelabrator Technologies Inc. has sponsored an annual Symposium for Environment and Education, challenging middle school students in partner communities to identify an environmental issue and work towards a solution. The symposium fosters teamwork and helps teachers to incorporate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) concepts. It also aligns with the company’s business goals of protecting the environment and promoting sustainability.

Photo courtesy of Wheelabrator Technologies Inc.

Photo courtesy of Wheelabrator Technologies Inc.

Students from approximately 15 schools throughout the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Florida work with their teachers and Wheelabrator employees to identify an environmental issue in their community and research a practical, sustainable solution. Students then engage the local news media, local leaders, and the community to share their results and elicit feedback. The experience culminates in a four-day conference in Baltimore where the teams present their projects.

Wheelabrator Falls Inc., located in Falls Township, PA, sponsored the Morrisville Intermediate/High School students’ participation in the 2015 symposium. The student group, known as the MV Aviators, has participated in two previous symposia. This year they decided to make Morrisville an Audubon-recognized Bird Town. The MV Aviators formed partnerships with the Bucks County Conservation District and the Master Gardeners to organize a community event to promote bird-friendly practices. The event was open to the public and participants built nest boxes and assembled “seed bombs,” which are balls of compressed soil interspersed with seeds. Attendees were encouraged to pledge to use native plants on their property. Wheelabrator Falls Inc. has maintained WHC programs since 2012.

Wheelabrator Gloucester L.P., located in Westville, NJ, helped students from West Deptford Middle School to study the link between storm drains, freshwater mussels, and water health. Students wanted to increase community awareness of the link between water health and keeping streets pollution-free. The students prepared a survey for their peers to take, with specific questions about storm drains and their effect on waterways in general and freshwater mussels in particular. The group stenciled the school’s storm drains with the words “No dumping, drains to waterways” and distributed brochures about storm drains to each homeroom class. A highlight of the project was teaching fourth-graders about pollution and mussels through lessons, interactive games, and mussel dissection. Wheelabrator Gloucester L.P. has maintained WHC programs since 2009.

This Halloween, Embrace the Creepy-Crawlies!

By Katie Basiotis, Conservation Specialist|October 29, 2015

Part 2: Spiders

Spiders may resemble insects, but they are actually arachnids, with eight legs and two body segments. This is in contrast to insects, which have six legs and three body segments. Although they have venomous fangs, most spiders are too small to be a threat to humans. Many spiders eat insects and other spiders, although some eat fish and even birds.

SpiderA common type of spider is the orb-weaver, made famous by “Charlotte’s Web.” This family of spiders contains 25% of all spider species worldwide. These spiders make the familiar vertical web with a circular grid around spokes radiating from the center. The spider can move along the non-sticky spokes, or radii, while the sticky spiral grid traps prey. They need upright vegetation such as grass, shrubs, or trees to attach their webs to, so look for them in your forest or grassland habitats or along the banks of streams.

The marbled orb weaver (Araneus marmoreus) can be found throughout Canada and the United States, as well as Europe and northern Asia. This species has a yellow and black marbled abdomen; in the fall the yellow sometimes darkens to orange, giving it the nickname of Halloween or pumpkin spider. Rather than sit in the center of its web, the marbled orb weaver hides in a shelter of folded-over leaves at the edge of the web. Once it feels the vibrations of trapped prey, it rushes out to give its prey a venomous bite and wrap it in silk.

Their scurrying little legs and lurking behavior might send shivers down your spine, but orb-weavers are actually beneficial to humans. They eat many pest insects, including mosquitoes, ants, flies, and even the non-native invasive brown marmorated stink bug. Orb-weavers also serve as prey for many birds. Now that you know a bit more about these fascinating creatures, the next time you see an orb spider you may find yourself thinking about how they fit into an ecosystem and not how scary they are. So with one thing less to fear this year, have a very happy Halloween!

NestWatch: Building a Team, Building Habitat

By Paul Messing|October 26, 2015

Heading up the NestWatch program at the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, has been a rewarding, eye-opening experience. Rewards include working with others on the wildlife habitat committee at a deeper level, learning in much greater detail the workings of a nest, and thinking more day-to-day about birds nesting on the work campus, both in natural nests and in bird houses.

WL_bird in sky - ospreyAs I kicked off the NestWatch program, I was quickly connected to the tools available to support the site’s activities. It’s more than just diving into the website and entering data. By connecting with the NestWatch Project Leader directly, I found the program has ample support from the staff at Cornell. There is someone there to answer questions, join you on the first training or kickoff meeting through a teleconference, and provide interesting materials to communicate the program to people in the office. The strong support made launching our program much easier, but you really need to know to ask for this if you are trying to involve a new, widespread group of people in volunteering to contribute data to NestWatch. The success of the team really started by leveraging the resources available from Cornell.

More people than I could have imagined have participated in the NestWatch program. In the past, with citizen science projects like eBird, I had worked largely at an individual level. With NestWatch, the program worked really well as a group project. People that love nature photography, those that like getting their hands dirty building bird houses, and even managers who enjoy nature all teamed up to play roles in monitoring nests at the site. These people all came out to play their part on the team, and it has really helped to deepen the connection to the team working on the habitat committee.

I never imagined, back when I was checking the two bird houses and finding House Sparrows, that I would be writing about the success of a team that has, just in our third year, monitored the return of Cliff Swallows to nest, watched a Red-Tailed Hawk chick fledge from a nest, and teamed up to name and band Peregrine Falcons on the company’s engineering campus.