No fly zone: UW-Green Bay’s Giese and other alumni help save Snowys from bigger birds in the sky

Falconer Frank Ujazdowski with “Straubel.”
Photo by Paul Peters.

The piercing, golden eyes contrasting beautifully against white feathers is what makes Snowy Owls a crowd and local favorite. Theses arctic nesting owls have migrated into Wisconsin during the winter months, and their presence has birders everywhere on the lookout.

Despite being known for their wisdom, the owls’ preference for barren, tundra-like ecosystems have caused them to mistake airports for safe feeding and roosting areas during the winter. This mistake not only endangers Snowy Owls, but also puts air travelers at risk.

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Erin Giese and a Great Crested Flycatcher.
Photo by Emily Weber.

When this happened in Green Bay, Austin Straubel International Airport personnel contacted the Northeastern Wisconsin (NEW) Audubon Society for assistance. President of the Board of Directors, Erin Giese. The 2012 graduate of UW-Green Bay’s Master’s in Environmental Science and Policy program is also the senior research specialist for UW-Green Bay’s Cofrin Center for Biodiversity. Her first call was to Fox Cities falconer, Frank Ujazdowski, who has volunteered to capture and relocate the birds.

The NEW Audubon Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of birds and their habitats. Currently, many who serve on the board of directors for the organization are young, successful UW-Green Bay alumni using their education and experience to give back to the community.

Although Giese, who has captured and released a few thousand songbirds in the name of science, didn’t help with this particular rescue, her quick reaction and connections led to the prompt capture and safe relocation of nine Snowy Owls. Through Project SNOWstorm (with heavy involvement from UW-Green Bay alumni), featured early this year, two of these owls (a male named “Austin” and female named “Straubel”) have been outfitted with transmitters that allow researchers to track the birds in order to better understand the movements of the Snowy Owls throughout the year.

UW-Green Bay alumni who currently serve on the NEW Audubon Board:

  • John Jacobs ’81 (Master of Environmental Science & Policy)
  • Kari Hagenow ’12 (Master of Environmental Science & Policy)
  • Marian Shaffer ’12 ’16 (Biology and Master of Environmental Science & Policy)
  • Tom Prestby ’16 (Master of Environmental Science & Policy)
  • Erin Giese ’12 (Masters of Environmental Science & Policy)

Enrolled UW-Green Bay students who serve on the NEW Audubon Board:

  • Tara Hohman (graduate student)
  • Emily Weber (undergraduate student)

They follow a long line of personnel with UW-Green Bay connections who have served on the board, assuring the success of local (and visiting) wildlife and providing a higher quality of life for nature lovers in Northeast Wisconsin.

Story by Marketing and University Communication intern, Amanda Rice ’18.