Virtual Birds and Bagels connects the community to nature

Published by , Date: April 10, 2020

The Macoskey Center hosted Virtual Birds and Bagels Tuesday morning over ZOOM, adjusting the event to an online format.

Samantha Laurence, the manager of the Macoskey Center for Sustainability Education and Research, said that it was the center’s third year of the event.

Laurence said that the Macoskey Center wanted to involve the community in Project Feeder Watch, a citizens’ science project through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

As part of the project, two feeders were set up outside the Macoskey Center windows and data was recorded twice a week with various bird species.

“We thought, what better to do this with our larger community,” Laurence said. “We would typically go out on the trails and hike to record bird data as well, with food and free coffee to make it more enticing.”

Now, the Birds and Bagels event was shifted to a virtual format, with Garrett Talkington senior geography major with a concentration in environmental studies and sustainability leading the 9 a.m. session.

Talkington said that he developed a lesson plan for the session and utilized the breakout rooms feature on Zoom. The feature enabled viewers to view two virtual cameras that were placed in Ithaca, New York, the location of Cornell University and at a location in Alabama.

“There is no way we could have done that if we were at the Macoskey Center,” Talkington said.

The first virtual birds and bagels event attracted about 20 audience members, from students to those outside the area, such as Maryland.

Talkington said that sustainability is the foundation for why the Macoskey Center is in Slippery Rock.

“Sustainability doesn’t stop at the student level, it reaches out into the community,” Talkington said. “For us to build relationships and partnerships with the community, means that we are supporting them in whatever efforts they want to take in terms of sustainability”

Laurence agrees. Along with the importance of adding to citizen’s science and collection data, she said that is important to promote building community through the interaction with nature.

Laurence said that the Macoskey Center had to quickly shift to think what building the community would look like virtually.

“People are seeking resemblance of normalcy, community and contact with people,” Laurence said. “Bird watching is one of the most calming things you can do and the birds don’t stop during a pandemic; they are still migrating. I think the fact that we can focus on something that is still continuing in it’s normal patter like that has a sense of security and comfort in the midst of all that is changing around us.”

Laurence said that the Macoskey Center is still providing a community as well as outlets and options to distract from the regular daily challenges.

“Seek solace not only in nature but also through sustainable actions and projects,” Laurence said.

Throughout the rest of Earth Month, the Macoskey Center will have posts focused on what students and the community can do at home to promote and practice sustainability.

The Macoskey Center will also be releasing a series of videos of staff showing how they live sustainably.

Future events for the Macoksey Center are a film screening of Taking Root, in collaboration with the Women’s Center and another Virtual Birds and Bagels, April 28 at 9 a.m.


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Hope is a senior converged journalism major entering her third year on The Rocket staff and her second year as campus life editor. Previously, she served as assistant campus life editor after contributing to the campus life section her freshman year. After graduation, she hopes to report for a paper either in local journalism or city news. Outside of The Rocket, Hope is also part of the JumpStart Mentor Program, the Student Organization of Latinos Hispanics and Allies (SOL) and Lambda Pi Eta.


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