Research Is For the Birds…

Happy New Year!  I hope everyone reading this had some happy holidays!  Here at BCCDKY, we are starting this new year strong!  As promised, I wanted to update you all on the independent project that I have been working on and will continue to do for the next two months.  My super-secret project is (drumroll please) . . . A bird inventory of the restored wetland at YMCA’s Camp Ernst. 

As part of BCCDKY’s Gunpowder Creek Watershed Plan, an old horse pasture at Camp Ernst was converted to a wetland which was finished in 2017.  This wetland is approximately 5 to 7 acre-feet of land in the floodplain of Gunpowder Creek which provides stormwater retention and wildlife habitat.  The wetland consists of a large retention pond surrounded by a native shortgrass prairie and a riparian zone along Gunpowder Creek. 

For my independent project, we determined that doing some sort of bioassessment of the wetland would give us an indication of how the restoration project is influencing the native wildlife in the area.  The thought is that this assessment can later be compared to other restoration projects or to intact wetlands to determine the level of success the restoration has reached in terms of biodiversity.  I chose to do an inventory of birds at the wetland for two reasons.  First, I am familiar with identifying many local bird species from taking ornithology at NKU.  This makes my task much easier than studying other groups of organisms.  Secondly, birds are an excellent indicator of the health of an ecosystem.  Various bird species rely on a combination of insects, fish, trees, shrubs, water, and other organisms for their food and habitat needs.  Without a large biodiversity in other organisms, there cannot be a large diversity in bird species.  Therefore, we can indirectly measure the biodiversity of this restored wetland by measuring the diversity of its avian inhabitants. 

For this project, I have been and will continue to make two hour-long observations of the wetland each week.  By the end of the project, this will amount to approximately 20 hours of live observation to catalogue the diversity of the birds at the site.  I am using the free application eBird to record these observations.  This allows me to keep track of how many different species I have seen as well as the number of individual birds from each species.  At the end of the observation period, I will analyze my findings to determine the richness and evenness of the bird community, as well as the importance value of each species.  For native birds seen in the winter, click here!

The findings from this project will give BCCDKY and our partners an opportunity to examine our restoration efforts in the Gunpowder Creek Watershed Plan.  This project can be replicated in the future to see how biodiversity at this watershed changes over time.  The project can also be used in other locations as a way to compare different sites.  In all, I aim to create another tool we can use in our continued effort to conserve our wetlands, watersheds, and other natural areas.

I do apologize for this being a factual blog post.  It is my sincere hope that my regularly scheduled misadventures will continue shortly.  Thanks for sticking with me for this and, as always, let me know if you have any additional feedback!

– Kevin

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