MECA's Public Engagement program connects art students with community partners to propel students into real-world situations that tap their creative potential. In the fall of 2018, BRI teamed up with the students in Andrea Southworth and Deb Debiegun's science course Invasive Species. The students worked at BRI's River Point Bird Observatory to study how invasive species might affect the native populations of birds and plants. We continued the collaboration in fall of 2019. Students and scientists alike learned from the experience.
Students in the 2019 Invasive Species Class at MECA created a variety of outreach materials to help spread the word about birds and conservation. Projects included songbird trading cards, a birdwatching brochure to help guide visitors to the wonders found at BRI's River Point Bird Observatory, a mini magazine to explain why places like River Point are important to the well being of the planet, and some fun animations of charismatic birds that BRI studies.
The illustration at left is of the Asiatic Bittersweet vine, an invasive plant that was introduced to the United States in the mid-1800s and has become very problematic for native plants since. The vines are brown, thick, round, and have a nautical bumpy pattern, and it is most commonly known for its bright orange roots. Often found in wooded areas throughout Maine, including at River Point, this vine wraps itself around a nearby tree and quickly constrains the tree until it can no longer receive any nutrients. In many cases small patches of the vine can be pulled straight from the ground to stop it from growing. Illustration by Beckett Asselin, Class of 2020.
The Gray Catbird has become a mascot of sorts for BRI's River Point Bird Observatory because it’s a native species that is seen frequently around the area. This species often hides in shrubbery or brush, along with leafy thickets. If an invasive species were to damage or destroy these thickets, the catbird would be left without a habitat to make a home in. This bird's name “catbird” comes from the mewing sound it makes, which sounds similar to a cat.
Animation by James Tedesco
Class of 2020
Loons, a unique species of bird designed to catch fish, are incredible swimmers. Loons are dense and heavy, which helps in the water but is problematic for flight. The solution to this problem is momentum. Loons are able to gain speed using a long enough path that allows them to take off and become airborne. In 2013, hundreds of Loons were found dead in Michigan. Scientists are not certain how they died, though they suspect invasive species are to blame.
Animation by Josh Lightbourne
Class of 2019
Our group decided to make tradings cards of a few birds that BRI studies. These trading cards serve as a fun way for others to see and learn about the birds we picked.
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