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Field Ornithologists club studies avian ecology, conservation, bird watching

Upon arriving at Colorado State University last fall, freshman and avid bird watcher Francis Commercon noticed one of his favorite hobbies was missing from the community. Commercon, alongside junior Megan Miller, founded the CSU Field Ornithologists club as a way to bring bird watching to the university.

“We didn’t really have a club that went out and bird watched,” Commercon said. “That’s something that I missed when I came here.”

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Commercon and Miller have both been bird watching since they were children, and saw this club as an opportunity to share their hobby with other students interested in nature.

“I sort of want to give people the opportunity to see that birds are super cool,” Miller said.

The club hosts trips around the area to look for birds and practice both auditory and visual identification skills. They also have meetings to learn about the scientific aspects of birds and their environments.

“I’ve always found birding to be a great way to meet really awesome people,” Commercon said. “There’s a very close-knit, small community around birding, and the more young people that get involved, the more fun it is.”

As members of other wildlife clubs on campus, such as the Wildlife Society and the Society for Conservation Biology, Commercon and Miller noticed that often more attention is given to mammals.

“I just felt like a focus on birds was missing,” Commercon said. “Birds are very important for wildlife biology, for looking at ecosystem health and for studying a lot of aspects of our natural environment.”

Cameron Ghalambor, an associate professor in the biology department, teaches Ornithology and serves as faculty adviser for the club.

“I think it’s a great opportunity university-wide, but also for students that are taking the class to get outside with a group of motivated people and go bird watch,” Ghalambor said.

It can sometimes be challenging to see and identify birds, but they are abundant enough that something will always show up, according to Commercon.

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The club is open to students of all majors, backgrounds and skill levels. There are no dues and members are only required to attend one trip or meeting.

“Bird watching is a very popular activity that a lot of people participate in, whether or not they’ve had a more scientific or biological background in it,” Ghalambor said.

Studying birds can apply to anyone, regardless of their field of study, according to Commercon. He also said he considers it a great way to get to know one’s location.

“You get a feel for where you are and things feel alive,” Commercon said. “The land feels alive.”

The next CSU Field Ornithologists meeting will take place Monday at 5 p.m. in the Wagar Building room 133. Guest speaker Maybelline Gamboa, a Ph.D. student in the biology department, will discuss her research on the song sparrows of the California Channel Islands.

The club will also be taking a trip to Fossil Creek on March 1. Email csuornithology@gmail.com for more information.

Collegian Reporter Emily Vavra can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter at @vivalavavra.

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