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Campus bird feeders to offer ‘fun, educational research experiences’

With all the fuss about squirrels on campus, it may seem as though the birds that call Colorado State University their home get little recognition in comparison. The Ornithology Club at CSU wants to change that. 

The Ornithology Club finalized plans to set up several new bird feeders on campus to conduct a study about urban bird populations, wrote Sofia Koepke, a senior fish, wildlife and conservation biology major and member of the Ornithology Club, in an email to The Collegian.

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The feeders are scheduled to be added to campus during the spring 2020 semester, with the study starting shortly after, Koepke wrote. The study will observe bird population density, promote native species and track invasive species. 

“The feeder project has been approved two squirrel-proof feeders with no-waste birdseed that will be put up in the following locations: one in Sherwood Forest and the other next to the new biology building,” Koepke wrote.

Within the next few years, the hope is to add five more feeders across campus, wrote Nolan Bunting, senior zoology major and Ornithology Club member, in an email to The Collegian.

However, Koepke wrote that the addition of the first two feeders is an experiment to see how the project will work. 

The Associated Students of CSU previously approved the resolution to add these feeders to campus, and campus Facilities Management also approved these additions, Bunting wrote. 

“It took only one week to get it approved by ASCSU, as well as (the) College of Natural Sciences College Council, Warner College Council and various (registered student organizations) and individuals ranging from professors, students, graduates, local community leaders and senators,” Bunting wrote.

“Our main goal is to reach out to the CSU community and offer easy, fun and educational research experiences that will help us better understand … campus as an ecosystem. It is open for anyone interested in watching a feeder and doesn’t have any major time commitments.” -Nolan Bunting, senior zoology major, Ornithology Club member

With Bunting’s help, the feeder project began as an idea from Sean Washington, creator of the Curiosity Saves the Universe Club and Sean’s Wild World, who was inspired by the previous activities of the Ornithology Club.

“The thing that really was a catalyst for it was the different trips the club does around (Colorado) and the sheer diversity of birds in the state,” Washington wrote in an email to The Collegian. “And that got me really thinking about how human presence and impact can change how many and what kinds of birds are in an area just as much as the environment.”

After continued discussion with other members of the Ornithology Club, the feeder project began to form into a citizen science and outreach opportunity that had not been seen on campus before, Washington wrote.

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There is a notable research benefit in including feeders on campus because they can be used as a focal point to observe birds, their behaviors, their presence or their absence on campus, wrote Cameron Ghalambor, CSU biology professor, in an email to The Collegian.

There is currently no complete list of birds found on campus, and in order to more accurately catalog these species, the feeders are meant to bring the birds to observers, Washington wrote.

An important part of this project is that any student can sign up to be an observer and help compile this list. In the future, a photo contest will be held to compile a campus bird book, Koepke wrote.

Students are given an opportunity to assist in this project and contribute to a piece of CSU history, Koepke wrote. Also, Washington wrote that an important aspect of the study is that the Ornithology Club did not want major, age or ability to play a role in learning about the natural world.

The website for students to sign up to observe the feeders and watch birds this fall and winter is scheduled to launch soon, Bunting wrote.

Funding for the project has been entirely done through the Field Ornithologists at CSU, but the Ornithology Club has applied for funding through the Fort Collins Audubon Society, Koepke wrote.

“Our main goal is to reach out to the CSU community and offer easy, fun and educational research experiences that will help us better understand … campus as an ecosystem,” Bunting wrote. “It is open for anyone interested in watching a feeder and doesn’t have any major time commitments.”

With these new feeders, CSU will become the only campus in the nation aside from Cornell University with bird feeders, Koepke wrote.

Corbin Reiter can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @CorbinReiter.

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