Students Assist Researchers with Elkhorn Bird Count

Braving wind, cold weather and at times rain, AP Biology students from Mount Madonna School (MMS) met  researchers at Elkhorn Slough near Moss Landing last Friday to help count birds, including Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, White-tailed Kites, Blue Herons, and godwits.

The Elkhorn Slough Research Foundation sends a crew of local field biologists out twice a year to count and record the migratory and permanent shorebird populations who inhabit and nest at the slough. The students, working one-on-one with A. Todd Newberry, professor of Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, collected real-time data to contribute to the study. The study is very important in determining the health of the different bird populations who call the slough home, explains MMS science teacher Lisa Catterall.

“Some of the birds are on their way from Canada to Mexico, and the slough is a critical stopping-off point on the journey,” says Catterall. “Without data to support what population numbers are healthy, scientists would not be able to determine whether a given type of bird is threatened or in trouble from environmental pressures.”
 
Elkhorn Slough is a critical wetland resource for the land surrounding Watsonville.  It helps filter runoff pollutants before they reach the sea, and it supports a wealth of diverse animal life. The tides that run up the slough and the mixing of salt and fresh-water in the estuary environment create homes for unique animals and birds.

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Photos by Kabir Ahluwalia

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