Service Learning: Great Blue Heron Colony Survey
For the last four winters, I have collaborated with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) by bringing students to survey the Blue Lake Heron Colony in the MN Valley National Wildlife Refuge. The trip takes place in winter when we can count the nests without disturbing breeding Great Blue Herons. Prior to the trip, students practice identifying trees using bark and branching pattern and learn how to determine whether a nest has been used or if it was merely a starter nest. Students work in small groups to count the nests in each tree in their assigned area. The data is then compiled and turned over to the USFWS biologists. On occasion, a USFWS biologist has been able to join us to talk about the organization and career opportunities. I bring a number of volunteers from previous classes to serve as group leaders. We are also able to take time to discuss beaver lodges and muskrat lodges and determine if the muskrat lodges are occupied by inserting a thermometer. Student feedback has been very positive. One student was even hired as a USFWS intern and then as a USFWS Biologist with the MN Valley National Wildlife Refuge.