Your Monthly News & Updates
Middle School Students Help Inform Playa Conservation
By Miruh Hamend, Communications Director, Playa Lakes Joint Venture
 
Photo Credit: Playa Lakes Joint Venture 
In May, Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV) staff gave a presentation about the Playa Modifications Assessment Citizen Science Project to middle school students at Mackintosh Academy in Boulder, Colorado. After talking about the importance of playas to both wildlife and people of the western Great Plains, GIS Director Alex Daniels taught the class how to classify playa imagery by looking for hydrologic modifications to playas-like pits and ditches-and identifying the landcover (e.g. farmed, grassland).
 
Playas provide important wildlife habitat, especially for waterfowl, shorebirds and cranes. These same playas are also a main source of recharge to the Ogallala Aquifer. But, over time, many playas have been modified from their natural condition through activities such as excavation, farming, or road development. The Playa Modifications Assessment is a citizen science project designed to evaluate thousands of satellite photos using an online application; participants view photos of individual playas, determine whether the playa has been modified and select the type of modification, if any.
 
"This is a huge project. Due to time and cost limitations, it isn't really possible to do an assessment in the field, and it would take nearly a year for one person to evaluate and classify the thousands of playa images," says Daniels. "By using publicly available data and soliciting contributions from the larger online community, the information will be available and incorporated into conservation efforts much sooner. This approach also allows anyone, no matter their location or how little time, to make a valuable contribution to wildlife conservation, and to learn more about playas in the process."
 
According to Mackintosh Academy teacher, Charlie Warren, working on this project allowed the students to apply their lessons to a local, real world issue, and also see how they can have an impact by providing data which will help conserve playa wetlands. This semester the class has been studying about the importance of sustaining wetlands.

Once they started classifying playas, the students completed more than 3,000 playa classifications of 2,300 unique playas in Colorado in about an hour. By comparing this data with other citizen science data that has been collected as part of the Playa Modifications Assessment, PLJV can verify the accuracy and use this information to better inform playa conservation in the Great Plains.
 
The data collected will be incorporated into PLJV's Probable Playas Dataset and the Playa Decision Support System-both of which provide information to landowners, developers, and resource managers regarding playa conservation. The information will also help researchers better understand how playa lakes support wildlife populations and help land managers design more effective conservation programs that meet the needs of both people and wildlife.
 
According to Daniels, "By understanding the distribution of playa modifications, resource managers can improve playa conservation and restoration efforts and design better conservation programs that enhance wildlife habitat and benefit the farmers and ranchers who are the stewards of this land."
 
PLJV encourages BEN readers to join in! At the PLJV Citizen Science website, participants start with a short online playa training and can quickly begin to identify playa modifications from satellite imagery.   

Flying WILD into Seasonal Staff Training!
Photo Credit: Stacey Clementz

It's summer seasonal staff time! From the mountains of North Carolina to the mountains in California, we receive a vast collection of stories on how agencies use the Flying WILD program  as a seasonal staff professional development training tool. While Flying WILD:  An Educator's Guide to Celebrating Birds, offers over 40 multi-disciplinary, hands-on bird conservation activities, the materials also provide a variety of student learning and community outreach tools, including bird festival planning. When the materials are coupled within an existing staff training, or offered as stand-alone professional development for staff, the results are impressive.

"Flying WILD activities are highly adaptable to a variety of the K-6 camps that our summer seasonal staff lead at the Homer Lake Forest Preserve (IL)", says Program Specialist Stacey Clementz. "By taking our staff through the Flying WILD program, they are introduced to a collection of ready-made, high-quality activities for immediate implementation in our programming". Clementz adds, "Since many of our seasonal staff are college students enrolled in a park & recreation or science education field, this professional development also enhances their future academic and career-readiness". 
Flying WILD guide cover

Georgia Department of Natural Resources Project WILD Coordinator, Rust Garrison, reports WILD professional development training is an essential tool in his a nnual preparation of camp counselors at Camp Warrior King, located just outside of  A tlanta. Rusty notes, "In many cases, seasonal summer camp staff are formal classroom teachers during the school year, which provides a dual-benefit for introduction of the materials to this audience". 
 
Visit the Flying WILD website to locate a Flying WILD Training Partner or purchase a guide.
State of North America's Birds  2016 Report Offers Animated Species Abundance Maps 

Click to view weekly distribution animation,Source: NACBI
Using real-world data in the classroom, students can now "see" exactly where their species-of-interest is spending the winter, or any day! 

As one of the resources produced through the Report, the North American Conservation  Bird   Initiative  has created animated maps showing predicted distribution and relative abundance across all 52 weeks of the year for seven different species. The colorful animation illustrates the migratory movements of each species as its populations travel across North America. The brighter the col or, the higher the expected count of the species on a standardized eBird count. Enjoy these beautiful animations at the
State of the Birds website .
Bird Education in Action
Photo Credit: Sarah Livesay 

Seasonal Counselors Make Bird Badges Happen!
 
Just a short distance from the bank of the mighty Mississippi river, at the intersection of Iowa, Missouri and Illinois, lies the Ingersoll Scout Reservation. All summer long, counselor Elisabeth Pleshko teaches Boy Scouts the skills needed to earn their Bird Study Merit Badges. 
The Bird Education Network (BEN) was created following the February 2007 National Gathering, hosted by the Council for Environmental Education (CEE). BEN is a CEE initiative that seeks to connect and support a community of bird education professionals. 
Over 4,000 individuals representing 300 organizations receive communications and engage in professional dialogue through the BEN-administered Bird Education Listserv
 
To learn more about us, read the BEN publication, "Toward a National Bird Education Strategy" .

The BEN Bulletin is provided free of charge. We appreciate any financial help possible to continue this effort. See your logo in the BEN Bulletin! Contact us  for sponsorship opportunities.

Newsletter Maintained by:
Council for Environmental Education  | Flying WILD  |  BEN Committee
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