Physics lab aids bird conservation effort
While experimenters at Fermilab track the flight of subatomic particles from collisions in three-story detectors along the Tevatron accelerator ring, nature lovers hover above them tracking the health of American bird populations.
Members of area Audubon societies, the Chicago Wilderness organization, and other bird enthusiasts migrated to the 6800-acre laboratory 40 miles outside of Chicago on Dec. 20 for the annual Christmas bird count.
Similar teams through North and South America conducted counts in December and January. About 50,000 volunteers at 2000 sites, including several in Illinois, make up the North American team. The count allows avian experts to get a record of bird migration and population trends that can help tell the health of a species and whether actions are needed to prevent a specific species from joining the endangered animals list.
The tradition started in December 1900, when Frank Chapman, an early member of the Audubon Society, challenged people to replace the bird hunting Christmas tradition with one of bird counting.
Fermilab joined the tradition in 1976.
This year, 94 participants, two feeders, and one watcher joined the count. A list of the 81 species recorded can be found here.
Between the Christmas bird count and a separate count conducted by Fermilab physicist Peter Kasper, Fermilab has been able to recorded 277 different species of birds. You can see the annual count results and pictures of many of the birds here.
Helping with the bird count is just one of the many things Fermilab participates in as part of a goal of blending nature and science. Fermilab also is one of only six Enviormental Research Parks in the nation.