Looking to Birds for Guidance
Lisa Fitzgerald, Upper School Faculty

I am rather proud of the desktop background image on my laptop. It is a white-crowned sparrow picture that I took on Whidbey Island. But that sparrow is more than just a pretty picture. Birds are known as bioindicators, living things that let us know how healthy our environment is. Birds can be used as indicators in many ways. In the past canaries were sent into mines before the workers to see if the mine was safe to enter. If the canary was happy and healthy, the mine was safe. If the canary got sick, the mine wasn’t safe to enter. 

The Ecology class this fall will be using the birds and other organisms around our campus as bioindicators to measure its health. I am excited to be able to share one of my hobbies with the students as well as why the birds are so important.

The students are currently learning the sight and sound of the birds of Forest Ridge. They will be conducting population studies using quadrants and transects as well as other methods to see what organisms are present on out campus as well as categorize the animals’ behavior. They will also be measuring the biodiversity of our campus and categorizing the forest habitat of Forest Ridge.

This campus is a great learning lab with its trees and greenery creating homes for organisms. It can also measure how the changes we make to campus affect the organisms that live here as well as the ones that may be passing through. We will also monitor the campus changes over the course of the semester from late summer to fall to early winter. Students will keep records in a dedicated field journal. Students will then apply these tools to other environments in the Seattle area, like the zoo, as well as habitats around the world. Then we then suggest ways to make the campus a healthier environment for the birds, and thus a healthier place for us humans.