AVPA’s Butler Listening to Songbirds, Connecting Science with Art

AVPA creative director for film Alexis Butler joined an Earthwatch research team for a 9-day expedition in Jackson Hole, Wyoming to help scientists understand how songbirds, who are indicator species, are affected by climate change. The expedition was funded by a grant from The Durfee Foundation.

From July 19th to July 27th, Alexis joined nine other Earthwatch volunteers from the Los Angeles area for the “Spotting Songbirds in the Rockies” project. The research team was led by Dr. Embere Hall of the Teton Science Schools.

“I came home from my Earthwatch expedition feeling a whole new sense of connection to the natural world, a fresh understanding of climate change and the need to act now. I also gained a renewed enthusiasm for place-based education advocated by the Teton Science School. Their method of teaching science mirrors the way I teach film: out in the field and in teams or on location and in crews. And, place-based education is a huge part of the success of the Academy of Visual and Performing Arts as we take students out of the classroom to experience art making and collaborative problem solving,”

A changing climate is most dramatically visible in the beautiful Teton Mountains. Bison, wolves and bears live here, along with an array of forest songbirds, waterfowl, raptors and trumpeter swans. Sadly, studies have shown that the number of both resident and migratory songbirds has been declining for the past 30 years. Earthwatch scientists and volunteers search for migratory birds’ nests and relocate color-banded birds, providing much needed information on seasonal survivorship and productivity.

“I never imagined I would take part in real data collection like a true scientist,” said Alexis. “I was thrilled to capture sound recordings of songbirds and pictures of the birds and other animals we found. I can’t wait to integrate it all into a film and sound recording workshop in the Ballona Wetlands and see how students respond!”

Earthwatch (www.earthwatch.org), the world’s largest environmental nonprofit volunteer organization, is based in Metro Boston. Its mission is to engage people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment.


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