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High School Science Project Benefits Alewife Reservation
By Julia J. Berg, CRLS
submitted to February 16, 2006 Cambridge Chronicle

The following High School science project was completed and installed at Alewife Reservation. It enabled my partner, Sumbul Siddiqui and I to enjoy the nature that blossoms in our city, and to embrace the opportunities that the Friends of Alewife Organization offers in the urban wild.

We observed 8 of the 20 most common bird species over a two week period. Our goal was to determine "How human presence (represented by a loud radio and surrounding urban area) affects the bird species population at Alewife Reservation?" We then asked, How does this compare to bird population with minimal human activity in the area, represented by a bird blind?

We chose this experiment when our classroom was guided in the Reservation by Ellen Mass and Don Bockler of FAR. FAR suggested a bird blind, among other projects, so visitors could track bird migration and population numbers more accurately. George Auger of the Rindge and Latin RSTA Carpentry class designed the bird blind using CADD and the class constructed the structure. The blind would allow us to observe birds' migratory patterns, and how they are influenced by human impact, the environment, climate, etc. We kept careful charts and created full accounting of our observations.

On 9 of these days observations were made with a radio playing at high volume, on 6 of these days we were hidden behind a bird blind with minimal human presence. Based on prior research we learned that there are 33 bird species that have been spotted in this area over the last few years. The 8 species observed were: the Common crow, Canadian geese, Palm Warblers, Phoebes, Wood Ducks, Pigeons, Shoveller Ducks, and the Common Blue jay. For the common crow, palm warblers and pigeons the bird blind and radio were not a factor in their abundance. This is due to their behavior in the upper canopy, they were high-fliers and therefore not affected by our presence. We saw each of these species every day behind the blind and not. Species such as the Shoveller Duck and Wood Duck were only recorded on bird blind days because they are bottom canopy species and are much more sensitive to sound and human activity. It was truly a beneficial project that served as an enriching academic and cultural experience for both of us this semester in Sarah Colby's classroom.