The Bird’s-Eye View Education Program: Using Bird Research To Educate The Public On The Importance Of Healthy Riparian Systems

Scientific Disciplines
Biological Sciences - Terrestrial
University of Montana
birdseye view education program
clark fork
upper clark fork river basin
avian science
Volume 17, No. 1-4

The bird’s-eye view education program: using bird 
Research to educate the public on the importance of 
Healthy riparian systems
Megan Fylling,* Avian Science Center, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana 59812  Megan.  
Richard Hutto, Avian Science Center, University of Montana, Missoula MT 59812
Kristina Smucker, Avian Science Center, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana 59812  
Erick Greene,* Division of Biological Sciences, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana 59812,
Rob Domenech, Raptor View Research Institute, P.O. Box 4323, Missoula, Montana 59806
Heiko Langner, Department of Geosciences, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana 59812
Matt Vincent, Clark Fork Education Program, Montana Tech, Butte, Montana 59701
The Upper Clark Fork River Basin (UCFRB) has been degraded by over 100 yrs of 
mining and smelting activities. The UCFRB is the largest contiguous complex of federal 
Superfund sites in the nation. Restoration and remediation efforts were initiated in the late 
1980s and will continue, at a minimum, through 2030. Any restoration activity should include 
public education and outreach so that land-use decisions in the future do not compromise 
the integrity of the ecosystems that support the region. We have developed a program, the 
Bird’s-eye View Education Program, which integrates public education and research on 
the ecological health of the UCFRB. Specifically we focus on birds, inviting the public 
to observe research at songbird banding stations and Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) nests.  
Riparian-associated birds are likely to respond positively to riparian restoration activities and 
can be used as bio-indicators to measure success.  In 2010 we operated three bird banding 
stations and monitored 19 Osprey nests. We captured 595 songbirds, collected 43 blood and 
feather samples from Osprey chicks, and served nearly 1000 participants. The program was 
an outstanding success and results from an assessment show that participants leave with a 
positive attitude toward the outdoor science experience and a general knowledge of Upper 
Clark Fork restoration, history, and its riparian ecosystems.