Grad student Jacob Woulf, undergrad Brandon Byrne and UW-Green Bay Senior Research Specialist Erin Giese (Cofrin Center for Biodiversity), were surprised to be recognized at the National Audubon Convention in Milwaukee, for starting the very first Audubon Student Campus Chapter in the country—the Green Bay Audubon Student Conservation Chapter. Only three awards were given during this plenary session with more than 600 in attendance, and UW-Green Bay received one of them. According to Giese, during the plenary session, organizers also showed a photograph of recent graduate student Tara Hohman ’19 (Environmental Science & Policy) to recognize her as being the first Audubon Campus Chapter student hired by Audubon. (She started her job in early July of this year.)
Though you might not have noticed, more than 100,000 visitors dropped into Green Bay over the May 11th weekend, just for a quick bite and a rest on their way north. Not snow birds, but real birds. Hundreds of thousands of songbirds “overwinter” in Florida and Georgia (and Central and South America) then fly north to breed in one of the greatest mass migrations on the planet. The event celebrated as International Migratory Bird Day is every second Saturday in May.
Joining in this year’s celebration on May 11 events at the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary included guided bird hikes, family activities to make a bird house or feeder and demonstrations on bird banding by a coalition of UW-Green Bay faculty, staff, alumni and students, with the help of the Northeastern Wisconsin Audubon Society, UW-Green Bay Audubon student chapter (Green Bay Audubon), U.S. Forest Service and Marinette County.
“This is our fifth year,” said Erin Giese, senior research specialist at the Cofrin Center for Biodiversity. “It’s a great way to interact with the public and the birds at the same time.”
Turns out there are good reasons to band a bird—estimating bird populations, tracking migration routes, determining how long birds live, gathering more precise information about individual birds (age and sex) and resighting purposes. Banding is also a very serious and carefully choreographed process. The permits and data base for all things banding originates at the U.S. Geological Survey. “We’re only permitted to band song birds and small landbirds, but you can band almost any kind of bird” Giese explains. (If a hummingbird or goose wanders into the net, they get a free pass.)
But you can’t even net a gnat without having a certified “master bander” on hand, who in this case is Bob Howe, the founding director of UW-Green Bay’s Cofrin Center for Biodiversity. It’s under his office and the collective expertise of this band of bird-lovers that others can learn the skills needed and earn sub-permits to also engage in the handling and banding of birds.
Though this particular May Saturday is cloudy, the winds are calm and Howe is expecting they will stay busy. “It’s highly variable, this is shaping up to be a good day. We’ve had as many as 52 birds in one day.”
The net set-up resembles a volleyball game set up in a shrubby march and nearby forest. The birds fly into, and get captured in fine, black “mist nets.” Then the birds unharmed birds are safely and carefully extricated from the net, placed in an individual bag, taken to the banding table, processed and then released.
Busy at the net is UW-Green Bay Biology Professor Amy Wolf and alumnus Greg Cleereman. Extracting annoyed songbirds, especially chickadees, can be an exacting and arduous process. “They make a tight fist and they have very long toes.” Wolf explains while untangling the annoyed ball of feathers. “But better than robins,” Cleereman adds. “They poop on you.” The birds are then carefully (and individually) bagged and taken to the banding station.
From there a steady flow of parents, kids and dedicated birders watch the assembly line as birds move from out of the bag, to banding, to measurements, and eventually to freedom. Among those at the table, Tara Hohman (finishing up her graduate degree in Environmental Science and Policy) is being assisted by underclassman Jacob Shariff (limited on this, his first banding experience, to recording data only, but given an opportunity to hold and release a bird.) “We take a suite of measurements on these birds including height, weight wing length and tail length, bill width and tarsus (imagine part of a bird’s foot),” Hohman explains.
The big send-off happens when the bird is released by an onlooker, which consists of the bird being placed into an open hand to instantly fly away. Occasionally, a bird will sit for a second or two, to the amazement of the crowd.
For the record, the day netted, in no particular number or order, included Gray Catbirds, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Palm Warblers, Chestnut-sided Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Black-and-white Warblers, Black-capped Chickadees plus an assortment of young, two-legged mammals captured by Green Bay Restoration Coordinator Amy Carrozzino-Lyon at the helm of the “kid banding” display ran by the Northeastern Wisconsin Audubon Society and Green Bay Audubon Student Conservation Chapter.
Kids run through a badminton net and get “caught” but it’s not quite the same struggle to extricate them that real birds can be. Once released, their arm length and weight are recorded and they also receive a rubber “band” bracelet. “We’re just demonstrating the same process as the bird-banding booth. To show how and why we band birds.” She explains. And who knows? Maybe a future bird-bander or two was also captured.
Click to advance slideshow or view the album on Flickr.
– Story and photos by Michael Shaw, Office of Marketing and University Communication, UW-Green Bay
Sounds like the start of a children’s rhyme. Take a walk to the Provost Office for a look at the four baby falcons via the “PhalCON” camera viewing station. Enjoy the view!
Congratulations to Rupert and Mimi, the Peregrine parents of four fuzzy eyasses (baby falcons) hatched recently on the UW-Green Bay campus. The Provost office has a closed-circuit video of the falcon family, and you are welcome to stop by for a viewing. The Green Bay Audubon Student Conservation Chapter has been keeping close tabs.
Members of the UW-Green Bay Audubon Student Conservation Chapter (which has the honor of being the first Audubon campus chapter in the nation) were featured by the Audubon website for their participation in a Washington DC fly-in event that geared towards raising awareness of the threats facing seabirds. “I think I could easily speak for everyone by saying it was such a wonderful learning experience,” said UW-Green Bay graduation student Tara Hohman (Environmental Science and Policy). Read the full story from Audubon.
The UW-Green Bay Audubon Student Conservation Chapter, which has been recognized as the first Audubon college chapter in the nation, participated in a “fly-in” hosted by the National Audubon Society in Washington, D.C., April 10-12, 2019. The purpose of the fly in was to put people who are passionate about birds and conservation in front of lawmakers in order to advocate for solutions to the seabird and forage fish crisis.
National Audubon provided scholarships for a select number of individuals across the nation, including five students from UW-Green Bay who are Audubon Student Conservation Chapter members, to advocate for seabirds. Attending were:
- Tara Hohman, Environmental Science and Policy Graduate Student, Mansfield, Tex.
- Jade Arneson, Environmental Science and Policy Graduate Student, Newton, Wis.
- Megan Hoff, Environmental Science and Policy Graduate Student, Sleepy Hollow, Ill.
- Demetri Lafkas, Environmental Science and Policy Graduate Student, Marquette, Mich.
- Mari Mitchells, Biology, Madison
“I think I could easily speak for everyone by saying it was a such a wonderful learning experience,” Hohman said. “We worked with amazing staff from Audubon’s D.C. Campaign crew, and were trained on advocating and interacting with congressmen. We all have a better understanding of how much work the politics of advocating and introducing a bills to the house is!”
“Seabirds have declined by 70% on a global scale in the last 60 years due to over fishing of forage fish, which acts as the primary food source for seabirds, as well as the rapidly warming ocean waters which is driving forage fish to go deeper in search for cold water. Currently there is no federal management of forage fish despite forage fish being a key component of the ocean ecosystem.”
National Audubon is asking lawmakers to take the crisis of seabird decline and climate change impacts on the oceans seriously and to pass federal legislation that manages forage fish in a way that is sustainable, takes the needs of seabirds into consideration and prepares us to live in a warming world.
In the photo above, from left to right: Tara Hohman, Mari Mitchell, Demetri Lafkas, Jesse Walls (senior director of Government Affairs for Audubon), Megan Hoff and Jade Arneson.
Story by Marketing and University Communication intern Alicia LeBoeuf
UW-Green Bay’s Green Bay Audubon Student Conservation Chapter was highlighted in a recent Audubon article, “Conservation Trailblazers on Campus.” UW-Green Bay graduate student Tara Hohman (Environmental Science and Policy), who serves as president for the student organization, was featured. Read more.
Erin Giese ’12 (Masters of Environmental Science & Policy), senior research specialist for the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Cofrin Center for Biodiversity, considers herself incredibly passionate about birds and protecting them. In fact, just recently, she and her team rescued yet another Snowy Owl from the dangers of the Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay, and relocated it to a safer location for its winter stay in Wisconsin.
While she had sensed that conservation and environmental protection were areas that she was meant to be in, finding a focus took a bit longer for Giese. A songbird banding position in Alabama post-graduation put her in a position to truly discover her love for birds.
Giese remembers specifically the bird that caused that first real spark: A Brown Thrasher. It was the first bird that she was able to extract from a mist net by herself during the bird banding operations, and from that point on she knew that birds were her calling. Giese decided to go on to graduate school at UW-Green Bay to further pursue this interest of hers.
Aside from Project SOAR, an effort dedicated to relocating Snowy Owls from airports, Giese is now serving as the advisor to UW-Green Bay’s Green Bay Audubon Student Conservation Chapter, which has gained national recognition for being the very first Audubon college campus chapter organized in the country. Giese and graduate student Tara Hohman (Environmental Science & Policy), president of the Green Bay Audubon Student Conservation Chapter, discuss this exciting new development while providing an overview of the work that Audubon partakes in:
All About Audubon
The purpose of the Green Bay Audubon Student Conservation Chapter is to protect birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow.
“We need to make sure that the next generation of young people are engaged to become leaders in bird protection and conservation in the coming years,” says Giese.
Students who participate in this organization are able to take advantage of numerous opportunities to learn more about birds and bird conservation at a local level. Students also learn to build practical experience, are introduced to jobs associated with birds, and connect with local bird conservation projects and professionals. The student organization welcomes those with any level of previous bird knowledge to join.
Providing volunteer opportunities are a strong component of the organization. The members organized an event at Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary in which they helped clean and rake the outdoor raptor exhibits, joined by fellow UW-Green Bay student organization Round River Alliance. Members have also volunteered at the Wild Birds Unlimited store in Ashwaubenon to assist in cleaning bird feeders. Field trips this semester have included visiting the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary and Ken Euers Natural Area. Members also attended two speaker events, co-hosted by the Northeastern Wisconsin (NEW) Audubon Chapter and Bay Area Bird Club.
“We are currently involved with some small scale projects that we hope will impact the university. One is window collision surveys around campus where we are trying to determine which buildings are the biggest risk to migrating birds. Once we have some data we hope to make some beneficial changes, like putting up deterrents to help mitigate those collisions,” says Hohman. “We are also involved with the Peregrine Falcons which have been nesting on the Cofrin Library for the past couple of years!”
The Green Bay Audubon Student Conservation Chapter plans on continuing its momentum into spring semester, with more speaker events, field trips throughout the state and possibly in Minnesota, and a Richter Museum of Natural History specimen prep workshop, among other plans.
“There are many young people who do not even know who or what Audubon is, and that needs to change,” Giese says, “This college campus program is a great way to change that and to engage and foster the next generation of bird conservationists.”
In order to bridge the gap between young bird conservationists and the long-term existing generation of bird conservation leaders, the National Audubon Society has launched an Audubon Campus Chapter Program. This program encourages the creation of Audubon bird clubs on college campuses across the country.
When Giese heard this announcement at the Wisconsin Audubon Council (WAC) meeting this past summer, she was instantly interested.
“As soon as I heard that, I raised my hand and asked if I could start a student chapter here at UW-Green Bay,” Giese says. “Immediately when I went back to work, I spoke with Tara about the possibility of starting a college campus Audubon chapter, and without hesitation, she said she was excited and interested in getting one started here at UW-Green Bay.”
NEW Audubon, for which Giese serves as president, serves an umbrella chapter for the student chapter. The student chapter wholeheartedly received approval and acceptance from the NEW Audubon Board of Directors. In the partnership between the two organizations, the president of the student chapter will always have a seat on the NEW Audubon Board of Directors to maintain a strong connection and encourage collaboration.
“The Green Bay Audubon chapter here at UW-Green Bay will provide students with important opportunities that will help them build their resumes and ultimately move them one step closer towards their dream careers,” Giese says.
To those at the chapter, it was a big surprise to gain the distinction of being the first campus chapter in the country to be recognized by the National Audubon Society.
“I am very excited to be able to connect UW-Green Bay with National Audubon and to get our university on the map nationally with Audubon,” Giese says. She also notes that Hohman and club Vice President, Emily Weber, were instrumental in getting the organization quickly registered with the University.
Hohman recalls that they didn’t know they were the first campus chapter until she and the club Vice President attended a Great Lakes gathering, which includes Audubon societies across the Great Lakes region. There, the National Audubon Society and Audubon Great Lakes informed them that they were the first to register a campus chapter and made it into quite an honor.
“Ultimately, it means that we were the first to send in and be approved and recognized by the National Audubon Society as a campus chapter,” says Hohman.
As Giese points out, birds are fascinating creatures.
“They are diverse with an estimated 10,000-18,000 species in the world and are truly beautiful, no matter if it’s a town bird or one found deep in the Amazon. They are found on every continent, even in the harshest of conditions in places like Antarctica, north of the Arctic Circle, places with little sunlight, deserts, and the middle of the ocean. They are resilient, intelligent, and adaptable. All species have their own life histories and ecologies and live out their own secret little lives that we only get a glimpse of,” Giese says.
And they deserve protection. That’s where the UW-Green Bay Audubon Student Conservation Chapter steps in.
Story by UW-Green Bay Marketing and University Communication intern Alicia LeBoeuf ’19
The Cat Island Restoration Project was recently discussed among members of the Northeastern Wisconsin Audubon Society and with Congressman Mike Gallagher (WI-8). The project focuses on reconstructing three islands in the lower bay. UW-Green Bay faculty, students, graduate students and alumni have worked closely with the project. Alumnus Tom Prestby ’16 (Environmental Science and Policy) can be seen in the photo wearing a UW-Green Bay shirt. Read the full story at Audubon Great Lakes.
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.
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.