STOP has created an educational website that raises awareness of the plight of the burrowing owl (www.sdburrowingowls.webs.com/ - it also carries our merchandise), produced STOP- related merchandise, and have sold these wares at local swap meets, generating over $100. We’ve also made countless flyers that we’ve distributed to the public at various venues. Besides our partnership with the San Diego Zoo, we are currently contacting local preserves and sister burrowing owl conservation groups, for example, the Burrowing Owl Preservation Society, with whom we plan to hold a conference with to discuss ways we can help the owls. In terms of awareness, we have also educated ourselves more fully on the Athene Cunicularia and are able to communicate this to the public through our flyers, educational pamphlets, and presentations.
Additionally, we’re currently writing letters/emails to local preserves (for example, The Torrey Pines State Reserve and the Penasquitos Preserve) and asking them to carry our burrowing owl flyers. After all, you never know where burrowing owls might be, and it won’t hurt to have more people be aware of the precarious plight of this unique species… it’s the small things that drive people to action.
Originally, when we conceived this project, we thought our focus would be on awareness. Accordingly, STOP distributed flyers, created an informational website, and educated others on the plight of the Athene Cunicularia. We also raised the start-up funds for burrowing owl-themed merchandise, which would become our main source of money.
Although our UP dealt specifically with awareness, we eventually veered the focus of our efforts towards fieldwork. And where better to start than with the endangered birds in our own backyards? Through fieldwork with researchers from the San Diego Zoo, STOP is directly changing the fate of the owls. To us, that’s one big step forward.
RESEARCH AND THANKS
In the very beginning of our project, we looked to the Internet to find out ways to best conserve Burrowing Owls. We first visited www.burrowingowlconservation.org/ in order to get started on how our team could raise awareness. We then also looked on several other websites such http://www.tshirtexpress.com and http://www.customink.com to find ways to print high-quality T-shirts economically, as well as determine how much money we would need to fund the creation of burrowing owl merchandise.
Additionally, Ronald Swaisgood of the San Diego Zoo helped us enormously. He introduced to Colleen Lenihan, a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Institute for Conservation Research. Ms. Lenihan will help us conduct the field portion of our project. She plans to have us and her research team reintroduce approximately 300 California Ground squirrels to enhance habitat and success of burrowing owls because owls need squirrels to dig burrows and keep the grass short around their nesting areas in the coming months.
Ms. Lenihan introduced us to a Zoo field technician, Jean-Pierre Montagne, who helped coordinate schedules for the HBO initiative (Home Building for Owls), which will involve re-introducing ground squirrels to Otay Mesa, San Diego, to build nests for local burrowing owls. The squirrels will serve as eco-engineers, providing homes for many more baby owls in the future. (If you haven’t guessed yet, owls are very picky about where they make their homes.)
Our project is still a work in progress. There’s much to learn about the habitat restoration and which methods are the most effective at restoring populations of burrowing owls. Even the researchers from the San Diego Zoo are still learning things every step of the way… It may take us months, or even years, to establish a sustainable owl colony at Otay Mesa Preserve.