Bird Conservation Through Education TM

August 3, 2015 

In This Issue
Barriers to Bird Outreach
Healthy Urban Trees
Education in Action
Thanks to our BEN Bulletin sponsors:

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."

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Barriers to Bird Outreach

by Dave Magpiong


Photo credit: Dave Magpiong


According to Birding in the United States: A Demographic and Economic Analysis released in 2013, there are approximately 47 million "birders" in our country. This includes both enthusiasts who watch birds around their own home and others who are willing to travel to observe wild birds. While some people may think "Wow!  There are more than 45 million birders in the United States?!", the flip side is that about 85% of our population is not involved with bird-watching.


This means that over 260 million people are missing out on the pure enjoyment and many benefits of bird observation. Yet, more importantly, it's exposes a pressing concern that over 260 million Americans are not aware of bird conservation issues and are likely not supporting or meaningfully engaged in bird conservation action at any level. With an overwhelming majority of our citizenry being non-participants, the future of bird conservation in the United States seems bleak.


This is why everyone within the Bird Education Network is so critical. Each of you, in your own way, are chipping away at the mountain of unawareness and helping new people to develop an appreciation of birds, become familiar with issues that threaten birds, and, ideally, get involve with bird conservation in some manner. The collective efforts of everyone in BEN are significant in both our shared overall mission and cumulative impact. In 2009, the BEN Committee drafted Toward a National Bird Education Strategy, with the valuable input of many individuals and organizations within the network.


As bird educators, this road we navigate on our journey to a broad societal bird conservation ethic is often a maze of potholes, washed-out bridges, one way streets, and many other obstacles. Over the next few months, the BEN Bulletin will explore some of these barriers to generating broader support for bird conservation and offer some detours to help bird educators chart a successful course in their own region.

Some of the anticipated barriers to be covered include a pervasive lack of awareness of local birds, geographic limitations, attitudes and perceptions of "birdwatching", historic trends, and economic challenges. As the series progresses, we welcome you to use the BEN Listserv to share stories of both personal experiences with these barriers and YOUR success stories in reaching new audiences despite such challenges. 

Healthy Urban Trees: Healthy Urban Residents


Photo credit: Trees Atlanta

This general subject has appeared before in the BEN Bulletin, but researchers from the University of Chicago have given it a fresh look. It's the degree to which "green space," particularly in urban areas, provides a restorative feeling, a feeling of well-being.

The team looked at Toronto, Canada, and compared measured green spaces and self-reported health information through the Ontario Health Study. While investigating the idea that greenery makes people healthier, they concentrated on one element: trees. By eliminating lawns and bushes in urban areas, the researchers hoped to focus on this one specific factor.


Moreover, they chose Toronto not only because the street-and-tree data and the health data were readily available, but also to rule out the effects of health insurance. (Canadians have universal healthcare, regardless of employment status or income level.)

The researchers discovered that those residents from areas with more street trees reported better health perception than those in neighborhoods with fewer trees. Regardless of their actual health, they felt they were healthier. It turns out they were actually healthier too: they suffered from fewer cardio-metabolic conditions.

Some results were even more striking. Planting just 11 more trees per city block could reduce cardio-metabolic conditions the same extent as if everybody on the block earned $20,000 more each year or miraculously became 1.4-years younger.

What's the magic? The researchers were not sure. Still, it wasn't proximity to trees in a neighborhood that was the most important variable, but the number of trees on the streets.

There are more implications in the study that probably deserve further inquiry. Readers of this BEN Bulletin will surely note that the presence of birds in the trees was not one of the measured factors! You can read the piece for yourself, Neighborhood Greenspace and Health in a Large Urban Center.  

Education in Action


Jacelyn Downey
Congratulations to Jacelyn Downey,
Flying WILD Coordinator and Audubon Rockies Education Programs Manager, for receiving National Audubon's highest education award, the 2014 Tamar Chotzen Audubon Educator of the Year.

Jacelyn began her career in marine science as an educator and aquarist at places such as The Catalina Island Marine Institute and Audubon Aquarium of the Americas. Once in Wyoming, Jacelyn focused on the sagebrush sea and has been working towards getting youth and families outdoors. As a Flying WILD Coordinator, Jacelyn organizes bird conservation education programs for students and teachers throughout Wyoming and Colorado. 


The award is named in honor of Tamar Chotzen, a pioneer of Audubon's conservation education programs and Audubon's Vice President of Centers and Education from 1999-2005. 

BEN: Connecting Bird Educators TM
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