Bird Conservation Through Education TM

December 1, 2014 

In This Issue
Help Conserve Bird Habitat
Nature Walks
Talking Turkey and Thanks
Thanks to our BEN Bulletin sponsors:
FW logo white with blue background

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-run Bird Education Listserv. 


A BEN Committee has been established to provide advice and guidance for this important initiative, to advance "bird conservation through education."

Support BEN
Support the Bird Education Network and your logo will be seen by hundreds of bird education professionals!
Contact Sarah Livesay ( for more information.

Quick Links 

Help Conserve Bird Habitat - in 15 Minutes or Less

by Miruh Hamend, Playa Lakes Joint Venture


Playa Lakes Joint Venture (PLJV) recently launched an online tool designed to evaluate the ecological condition of the thousands of playas that dot the western Great Plains. We are asking our partners, citizen scientists, and anyone interested in conserving bird habitat to help us by looking at satellite photos of individual playas and selecting the type of modification, if any.

Due to time and cost limitations, it isn't 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. 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. 

The playa region lies at the heart of the Central Flyway, an important migration corridor that supports millions of birds every year. This region is also an important agricultural area, providing much of the wheat, corn, and livestock produced in the U.S. Playas are impacted by a variety of modifications and land-use changes that affect their ecological functioning, such as farming, pits, and ditches or drains. In general, these modifications interrupt the natural playa hydrology, reduce their ability to provide food and habitat to birds and other animals, and may prevent recharge to the aquifer.

Although the modifications reduce the ability of playas to support wildlife, it is important to recognize that these modifications are land-use decisions made by farmers and ranchers to support their livelihoods. Understanding both sides of this issue is critical because playa conservation does not happen in spite of landowners; it happens because of landowners.

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. 

Visit the website to participate in PLJV's Playa Modifications Assessment.

Nature Walks are Simply Healthier, Right?

Photo Credit: Kevin Higgins

by Paul Baicich           


Yes, we seem to "know" that outdoor walks - with our without birds, by the way - are healthy. We have probably all seen studies that have informed us of this. But a recently published article in Ecopsychology has provided a significant, large-scale study on this subject. Melissa Marsalle, Katherine Irvine, and Sara Warber had their eye-opening study, "Examining Group Walks in Nature and Multiple Aspects of Well-Being", published in September.


In the study, it was determined that group walks in nature were associated with significantly lower depression, perceived stress, and negative affect, as well as enhanced positive affect and mental well-being. (There were, however, no group differences in the measured area of social support.) All study participants were over 18 years of age and residents in England. The study involved almost 2,000 participants - including a control group of walkers who were not involved in groups nature-walks. Although the participants were overwhelmingly over 55 years of age (c. 88%), female (c. 66%), married (c. 70%) and white (c. 96%), both groups equally reflected these sociological characteristics. About half were also highly educated and lived in the least socially deprived areas of England. Even though the people studied overwhelmingly reflected these categories of relative privilege, there was still an obvious difference between those who took group nature walks and those who did not.


Those to took group nature walks were clearly better off when considering aspects of mental and emotional well-being.


The researchers also estimated some important national health savings provided by accessible, low risk, and inexpensive nature-oriented physical exercise. They called for further support for programs of broad outdoor group walks "as a public health intervention."


A study with respondents of lower middle-class and working-class backgrounds, both white and non-white, may have to wait, but the initial findings in this article continue to buttress what we already "knew." And this is even with out the embellishment of birding, butterflying, and nature-study while on the walk! 


Talking Turkey and Thanks

by Dave Magpiong


On the heels of Thanksgiving seems like an ideal time to thank all of you for your efforts to make the world a better place both through and for the birds. Bird educators are about as varied as the birds they share with others. Some do it as their 9-to-5 at nature centers, park systems, schools, or other organizations. Others do it on a voluntary basis for a birding organization or local township. Of course, we must not forget individual birders who invest their own time and energy to simply share birds with people in their workplace or neighborhood.


Thank you for putting your heart and soul into our collective endeavor. By sharing the beauty of birds with others, you are introducing those people to a potentially lifelong source of enjoyment.  You are also giving them the master key to unlock the wonders of all of nature. More importantly, you've laid the foundation for these same people to truly appreciate their environment. It is from this appreciation that a conservation ethic can develop.


We encourage you to share the terrific work that you, your colleagues, or anyone else is doing to build a broader appreciation of birds among the general public. The BEN listserv is the perfect place for tooting these horns. Not only will they receive much deserved, and probably overdue, kudos but others can also learn from the creativity and hard work that you all have demonstrated over the years.


Thank you again - on behalf of the birds, the new birders, and the Bird Education Network.  Keep up the great work!!


BEN: Connecting Bird Educators TM
CEE logo CC good resolutionFor more information visit:
Newsletter maintained by: The Council for Environmental Education, Flying WILD and the BEN Committee.