USchool Students Observe Release of Rehabilitated Birds during Field Trip to Oceanographic Campus
High school students at University School had an extra benefit from a science class field trip to NSU’s Oceanographic Campus. The students observed firsthand the release of three rehabilitated birds into the wild at nearby John U. Lloyd Beach State Park in Dania Beach.
The South Florida Wildlife Center rehabilitated and released the birds that included a brown pelican whose vision was restored following cataract surgery. The brown pelican was rescued by fishermen in March 2015 and admitted to the Wildlife Center, where it was treated for weakness, malnourishment, and a severe loss of vision in its left eye. The center rehabilitated the pelican with the help of Robert Swinger, D.V.M., of Premier Veterinary Specialties, who performed the cataract surgery at no charge. The center also released a juvenile brown pelican treated for botulism and a royal tern.
The students’ tour of the campus was led by Melissa Dore, director of academic support and administration at the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography, and included a marine lecture and a meeting with faculty. Besides observing the wildlife release, students learned about sea oats and beach dunes, manatees (being cousins to elephants), and beach renourishment, Dore said.
Caitlyn Nay, a student in the college’s M.S. in Marine Biology program, is a volunteer at the South Florida Wildlife Center who participated in the wildlife release. Nay is conducting a thesis study on heavy metal contamination of sea birds in South Florida. (She also is the administrative assistant at the college’s Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences).
Nay helped catch the birds at their habitats at the wildlife center, placed them in carriers, and into a van for the trip to the state park. “This involves the use of big nets and some patience. They can fly, and you end up running back and forth a bit to get them,” Nay said. “Once I got a net around them, we carefully secured their wings and bills, making sure we had a finger between the top and bottom to keep their mouths open so they could breathe.”
Once at the park, “we just opened up the crate and let them come out on their own. These pelicans were a little shy with the larger crowd, so we had to lift up the carrier a bit to coax them out. They took off and immediately joined a flock of pelicans near.
“These releases are so important,” Nay said. “Making it to adulthood as a seabird is a feat of its own, and anything we can do to help juveniles survive is worth doing. Essentially, these releases also can be used as outreach tools to educate the public. Outreach events allow people to learn more about wildlife and hopefully can inspire them to get involved and be more aware of the human impacts we can have on the environment and the animals that live there.
“These birds were brought back to health in such a way that they could successfully integrate back into their natural environment. That to me is so rewarding to watch.”