Now we're targeting burrowing owl legislation, determined to change the way officials think about and treat these beautiful creatures.  Today, we created our online petition, which will not only raise awareness about burrowing owls but also help us in our  protest against construction on burrowing owl habitat and unfair legislation regarding burrowing owls.  You can find our petition here:

Please sign and help us reach our goals!  If you wish to send your own letter to legislators, our petition can also be used as a letter template!  Thank you so much!  Or go to the widget in the sidebar of this blog!

Really falling in love with burrowing owls...

We were watching some of our footage from our presentations, and just watching all the children raising and waving their hands, shouting out answers and suggestions and the teachers' expressions as we spoke about our work, and their passion is just contagious.  We visited one group who took a field trip the week before (at our suggestion) to the Zoo to visit the burrowing owl enclosure, and they had the brightest eyes and smiles of all the students we talked to.  This is, we hope, an experience that they will not forget.

And hopefully others will also get to see our work in action after we finish our documentary.  Today we made the first draft of our documentary script and scenes.  It's mostly an outline of information and key points and aspects we need to include.  It's very informational right now, not at all like a documentary, but we'll be refining it over the next week.
This was our second year competing in the Community Problem Solving competition for FPS.  With our focus on awareness this year, it's only appropriate for us to go present to an audience there, whether we place or not.  We spent the last few weeks preparing our presentation and materials, and our efforts really paid off when S.T.O.P. placed 1st at California State Bowl!  We are all so happy we did so well!  Now our team is mobilizing for the International Conference on June 6th, reaching out to more organizations and the like.  We're so excited to meet everyone else there and continue to spread the word about the burrowing owl!
CATALYST was just published and we were so surprised and happy that we were one of the articles selected to be published in it!  Our article is now circling around the community, and around the nation!  We hope that we will educate many people about the burrowing owl this way!

The journal has a readership of about 500.  Our article was also selected to compete at the national level in a publishing competition by CATALYST, which will further increase our awareness level!  We are so excited to see the sort of feedback our article will bring, and hopefully people from all over the nation will understand the importance of the burrowing owl!

I forgot to include in the last few posts that we have been recording our presentations as well.  We're planning to make a short documentary film about us in the future that we might be able to show around the community (we're considering holding a local movie night to show Hoot, after which we will show our documentary and talk about our project to raise awareness).




We probably haven't mentioned too much about our sister project in Cape Coral, Florida, so far.  However, we would like to share some recent developments in this area.

Cape Coral Burrowing Owls was founded by a woman known only as the Owl Lady online, when she found burrowing owls nesting in her front yard.  She's an avid ornithologist who loves all birds, like us, but also like us, she finds burrowing owls especially endearing.  She launched a starter colony for burrowing owls a while back after we shared our success with her from Phase I.  Using similar techniques, she managed to create burrows, and even installed a webcam in them!

Today, we just found out from her that an owl has made its home in a one of her starter burrows!  She inspected everything yesterday, and from the look of the nesting box, this owl may be expecting to raise chicks here!  This is an incredible first success for burrowing owls in Florida, and my team and I are so excited to see how things will progress!  Burrowing owl chicks are the most adorable, clown-ish, funny personalities you will ever meet, and honestly I can't wait for them to hatch!

I'm really rooting for the Owl Lady's burrows.  Seriously, her use of our technique means more to us than I can even convey in words.  Florida burrowing owls are actually quite different from Western ones, so the fact that they too can be convinced to reside in biomimetic artificial burrows is incredible, and really shows that we might, through our efforts, be able to help save burrowing owls from all around the world.  I really can't believe we have made such an incredible impact on the lives of such birds, and I hope others will also take up similar tasks to protect this species.  Thank you so much to the Owl Lady for your story, and to everyone else that helped make this project a success!
Today we presented to 4 different second grade classrooms in Torrey Hills Elementary School.  We incorporated activities like burrowing owl drawing, musical chairs (to simulate the loss of habitat and death for burrowing owls), sang owl songs, and an informational presentation.

We opened the presentation up completely to questions afterward.  Immediately, students began rapid-firing questions at us, almost overwhelming our presenters with their enthusiasm.  Afterward, one teacher told us, "Thank you so much for coming today.  The children definitely learned a lot today.  We're doing the ecology unit right now, so this fit right into our learning right now."  We're always glad to help! 

We also gathered a few hundred more drawings to add to our letters of activism.  The pictures are simple, like the children who drew them, but somehow they are masterful in their purity.  There's a very innocent longing for other creatures' well-being embodied in these drawings, little inspirational messages and powerful pleas to save the burrowing owls and save their habitats.  I was most impressed with the children's caring words and passionate work.  I can only hope some were inspired to join us in conserving this species, and that they will always remember our words.

Today we gave our first presentation to a sixth grade class at Torrey Hills elementary school!  We conducted the presentation in the Science Lab, and included a powerpoint, a fact-based (and therefore educational) burrowing-owl-themed bingo game, and letter-writing.  Our first letters of activism were gathered today!

The students were just so enthusiastic to learn about the burrowing owl, and confused by the reasons for its decline.  Why, they asked, did construction companies not simply avoid burrowing owl habitats?  We had to give an economic answer, upon which one girl stood up and said, "It's not fair!  They can live in their homes, and we can live in ours!  Why do we make them move out?"  Evidently, our presentation was successful in that students were galvanized to express such preservationist opinions for the burrowing owl.  I only smiled at her, and remembered the time we had asked the same question, and first started on this journey.
We've been customizing presentations to each school and classroom's individual needs lately, and practicing intensively.  We're basically making a master slideshow and master list of activities, then removing or adding slides and/or activities depending on what each teacher tells us about his/her class and the current topic the class is studying.

Teachers have also discussed the optimal setting for presentations with us: auditorium or classroom, as well as how many students should attend.  We wanted at first to reach as many students as possible with our presentations, but then we reasoned that it was more personal and compelling if we focused on conducting many presentations to many smaller groups.  Activities would also be easier to manage.  Thus, many of our presentations will take place in individual classrooms with individual classes.
After sending multiple emails, our local schools have responded!  Our liaisons are currently discussing the possibilities of incorporating our presentation with the curriculum and classroom material students are studying.  In this manner, we are determining the optimal times for our presentations.  We're also learning what area of conservation to focus on, and trying to narrow our subject matter to around 15 minutes of meaningful, compelling speech. 

This is just so important that people understand what's going on with burrowing owls today, and what kind of adversity they are facing.  It's just something our community has to fix, and though we've managed to slightly slow the decline of burrowing owls, we could still use all the support we can get!  The saddest thing is that our neighboring counties of Orange and Los Angeles have completely lost their burrowing owl populations, and visiting there over the weekend was saddening and energizing at the same time.  The environment in Los Angeles is especially well-known for its poor quality, and the loss of the burrowing owl certainly hasn't helped this condition.  But seeing these conditions, we became even more set in our determination to save the burrowing owl and help protect our environment as much as we can.