Biologists, César Villamil, Alejandro Pérez, Alejandro Montañez, Ingrid Obando y Eric Cubillos: members of Aves-Tamiento en Humdales, a wonderful Colombian group of environmentalists, led a fantastic citizen science event in Bogotá, Colombia. The event aimed to increase community involvement in scientific and outdoor activities, as well as sharing information with the public about local birds and the conservation of their habitats. In Bogotá and other large Colombian cities, habitat fragmentation and deforestation have become big environmental issues, as their population, urbanization, and pollution rapidly increases. The Blue-winged Teal, a migratory bird that spends its Northern Hemisphere’s winters in the warmer Southern wetlands of Latin America, has been greatly affected by the pollution of Bogota’s wetlands and their surroundings. Participants had a chance to engage in several activities, which promoted the dialog regarding the different ways they could improve the environmental quality in their communities, as well as help their local birds and wildlife.
The event consisted of three sessions that included illustration, fun educational activities, and a chance to explore Bogota’s natural areas. The goal was to provide a safe space to learn about local wildlife, enjoy the outdoors, and increase local environmental awareness.
Saul Martin, a talented scientific illustrator of urban birds, took part in the event, too! He talked about his life; in particular, about his career path, where he has combined his two passions: biology and illustration. Participants listened as Saul surprised many when he said being a scientific illustrator started as a hobby! His passion then progressed into a career. His story was a perfect example for the audience to see art in a new light, as a tool in science and as a tool in promoting bird conservation. The speaker’s enthusiasm for conservation motivated old and young participants to join the scientific community through advocacy and participation in citizen science, and more. After listening and asking questions, participants had an amazing opportunity to learn how to draw birds from the experts! Saul, and three Suba’s graffiti artists, Camilo Esteban Flautero, Milton Manuel Forero, y Edilson Rodríguez, taught adults and youth how to draw birds, and how their art could be a way to promote environmental stewardship. At the end of the activity, participants felt confident enough to teach their family and friends how to draw birds.
Another exciting bird walk took place in a more urban setting, in the eastern hills of Sede Venado de Oro in the Alexander von Humboldt Institute. Every participant had the chance to watch birds they usually passed on their way to work, to school or on the way home, with a new light! The group was very excited as they passed a copy of a bird guide around, each participant trying to find information about the birds they were noticing around. Those involved took free educational materials home; so that, they could share them with their friends or family after the event was over.
The application ebird was shared with the participants, and they were able to become part of the global scientific community that focuses on understanding and conserving bird populations! The participants entered their bird observations during the outdoor group walks and were very excited to share ebird with their friends!
At the end of the event, everyone received a certificate of participation. Every person left knowing they were better equipped to help scientists, their own communities, and the local birds. The event also helped city residents learn about local places they could go alone or with friends and family, to enjoy nature and watch the beautiful birds. It was a marvelous event that encouraged participants to take an active role in the conservation of birds and their habitats.