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Maine Island Science and Leadership Exploration (ISLE) Ornithology

This seven-day Maine Island Science and Leadership Exploration (ISLE) program is aimed at serving high school students (ages 14-18) during the summer of 2014. This hands-on program invites students to immerse themselves in the natural world as they observe and explore the rich biological community of Hurricane Island in Penobscot Bay, Maine. The program focus this week is ornithology, or the study of birds.

This program is focused around the top 30 birds that are seen throughout our summer season in Penobscot Bay. Our goal is for students to be able to identify those top birds by sight and sound and to start to become familiar with the habitats that those birds prefer and where we might expect to find them around Hurricane Island. We start our mornings with an island hike that gives students time to make observations about the visible and vocal birds around the island. After the hike we will dive into learning more about adaptations unique to birds, the different types of calls birds make, and how birds fit into the island ecology as seed dispersers and insect eaters. Throughout the program students will also be given space to think critically about human impacts on migratory birds and future concerns in light of our changing climate. Lessons are supplemented with hands on activities, including building birdhouses and setting them up around the island. These birdhouses will hopefully become a permanent residence for some of our nesting island birds. We look forward to monitoring these nesting sites for our ongoing field research. 

Students will also spend a day traveling to Seal Island, an offshore wildlife refuge which is home to many different breeding sea birds colonies. This trip is led by a renowned local ornithologist John Drury, who will also share what it is like to make a career out of ornithology. Before dinner students break into small sit spot groups, for some individual reflective time. The same sit spot is visited every day, which gives students a chance to become familiar with that place and observe differences throughout the week. Students bring a different prompt to their sit spot each day and are given a chance to write and draw what they observe around them.

Students also learn how to keep a field journal, use binoculars, and use a field guide as a reference. By going on regular bird walks students learn how to make close observations and really listen to the natural world around them.

Read more about Maine ISLE here

Look at pictures from the 2013 Maine ISLE here