Before going on with the project work today, we had a great discussion about our appropriate attitude toward the whole endeavor. We decided to classify our whole project as an experiment, as we are learning new things every step of the way. After surveying the preserve and observing that most of the flora and fauna on the preserve are nonnative, we wondered whether endangered species could thrive there. JP agreed with our thoughts, and reminded us that while some “specialist” species were very picky when it came to the species with which they shared their pabitat, but ground squirrels and burrowing owls are less discriminatory.
However, burrowing owls are notoriously picky with their burrowing sites, as our research showed. They refuse to accept any non-natural homes, and also do not tolerate homes that are too near certain distractions, such as noisy construction sites.
A previous experiment involving man-made burrows instead of squirrel-dug burrows failed: the first year, only two pairs of owls made their home there. By the end of the second year, they were all gone. We are hoping this doesn't happen here, since we are mimicking the way nature intended burrowing owls to acquire their burrows, but we are still nervous about the outcomes of this project.
Our partnership with the Zoo continues, and this email details our exact progress up to this point. It is really coming along much more quickly than any of us had ever imagined, which is incredible, since we had not expected to be ready to add animals until well into the later half of this year. However, it appears that we are soon going to be introducing ground squirrels into this preserve!
We are rolling forward with the project, and last week we finished building all the holding cages. We are scheduled to begin installing traps at the field site Monday, May 2nd. We also expect to be very busy in June and in need of lots of help, when do you finish school? Please do keep in touch, we have every intention of including you in the project to the best of our abilities.
Today we started mailing out our materials for the International Conference. Our visits to the field have already shown us still another side of our issue. We saw injured owls, owls sealed into their burrows, crushed or poisoned recklessly, and saw the construction companies in action. It was frightening, and at the same time enlightening. These visits to rescue owls have opened our eyes to the need for change in this situation and further strengthened our resolve to save these owls. There is no doubt that our work is necessary; if only legislative committees could understand this and join in the protection of these important and vulnerable animals.
I must also report, with difficulty, the dropping of a core member, Jojo Lee, from our International Conference excursion because of personal conflicts. She has, however, generously offered to further develop our display materials, including our scrapbook. We tried not to think about the loss of Jojo during our competition, and continued our work, editing our presentations from State and continuing to communicate with natural preserves. Either way, we need to continue spreading our efforts, and we continue visiting our colonies to check their process. Hopefully we will see owls living here soon!
Today we competed at the Future Problem Solving California State Bowl!
We compiled a powerpoint presentation about our project to an audience of hundreds in an auditorium. Everyone seemed very enthusiastic about our efforts, and things are definitely looking up for us! We tried to make it very clear to all our listeners that the burrowing owls are extremely important to the environment, and their loss could have drastic consequences for San Diegan ecosystems. "There isn't an option to wait." one member said in an impromptu speech. "We have to act now before we lose these beautiful animals permanently." There aren't words to describe how amazing it was to hear the applause and inquiries about our project, or to receive first place for our efforts and hearing that we could attend the International Conference soon. We would be able to spread our message to people from all over the world. My team and I jumped at this chance, and we will be presenting soon to an international audience!
Thanks for thinking of us! Sorry about the break/delay in communication.
Availability wise, this coming week is finals week. However, we have a week off (Spring Break) from April 10-15.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are good days; Friday - Sunday most of us will be out of town. About the following weeks... I can't give you a schedule on that, as events are fairly variable.
How long will the ground squirrel eco-engineering projcet take? Will these likely be full-day or half-day ventures?