Biologists César Villamil, Alejandro Pérez, Alejandro Montañez, Ingrid Obando, and Eric Cubillos, are members of the Colombian evironmentalist group Aves-Tamiento en Humdales. They led a fantastic citizen science event in Bogotá, Colombia aimed to increase community involvement in scientific and outdoor activities while 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 population, urbanization, and pollution all rapidly increase. The Blue-winged Teal, a bird that migrates to the warm southern wetlands of Latin America during winter in the Northern Hemisphere, is negatively affected by pollution in Bogota’s wetlands and surrounding ecosystem. Event participants had a chance to engage in several activities that opened up a dialog about the different ways they could improve the quality of their communities’ environments and help their local birds and wildlife.
The event consisted of three sessions that included artistic and educational activities as well as a chance to explore Bogota’s natural areas, with the goal of providing 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, also took part in the event. He offered insight into his career path, where he has combined his two passions: biology and illustration. Participants were surprised to hear that Saul had gotten his start with scientific illustration as a hobby! His passion then progressed into a career. His story was a perfect way for the audience to view art in a new light, as a tool for science and promoting bird conservation. Saul’s enthusiasm for conservation motivated participants of all ages to join the scientific community through advocacy and participation in citizen science. After the presentation and a time for questions, participants had the opportunity to learn how to draw birds from a group of experts! Saul and three of Suba’s graffiti artists, Camilo Esteban Flautero, Milton Manuel Forero, and Edilson Rodríguez, taught adults and youth how to illustrate birds, and how their art could promote environmental stewardship. At the end of the activity, participants felt confident enough to pass on the skill to their family and friends.
Another 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 stop and watch the birds they usually passed on their way to work or school in a new context! The group passed a bird guide around, each participant trying to discover information about the birds they were noticing. Those involved took free educational materials home to share with friends and family after the event concluded.
The smartphone app eBird encourages involvement the global scientific community, so users can focus on understanding and conserving bird populations. Participants entered their bird observations to eBird during outdoor group walks, and were very excited to share the app with their friends!
At the end of the event, everyone received a certificate of participation and left knowing they were better equipped to help scientists, their own communities, and local birds. The event also succeeded in informing city residents of local places they could visit with friends and family to enjoy nature and watch the birds. The event was successful in encouraging participants to take an active role in the conservation of birds and their habitats.