Staff note: Erin Giese wins award for ornithology project

The Wisconsin Society for Ornithology (WSO) recognized Senior Research Specialist Erin Giese (Cofrin Center for Biodiversity) for a project she has been working on.

The WSO Special Recognition Award was created to recognize the collective efforts of a far-reaching project or partnership that increases the public’s awareness and appreciation for birds, their habitats or the need for conservation. This year the award goes to Project SOAR and team members Erin Giese, Janet Wissink, and Frank Ujazdowski.

Project SOAR (Snowy Owl Airport Rescue) (nominated by Carl Schwartz) was the brainchild of falconer Ujazdowski and two leaders of local Audubon chapters, Wissink of Winnebago Audubon and Giese of Northeast Wisconsin Audubon.

In 2018, after Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh shot a Snowy Owl it considered a hazard for planes, Ujazdowski wondered if he could put his expertise to work saving owls. He contacted Wissink and asked if she could set up a meeting with airport managers. At that meeting, he offered to trap and relocate Snowy Owls and other raptors so there would be no need to shoot them. SOAR was born. His work caught the attention of Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay, which approached Giese and asked her to work with Ujazdowski to do the same at their facility. Since then, SOAR has relocated many Snowy Owls, Great Horned Owls, Red-tailed Hawks, a Cooper’s Hawk and an American Kestrel.