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Great Blue Heron Project broadcasts chick hatching live on the web

PRINCE RUPERT - Northwest Community College (NWCC) students enrolled in the Applied Coastal Ecology (ACE) program celebrate the successful hatching of a great blue heron chick yesterday morning, an event captured on video in real time on the College website. The hatching was of particular interest to ACE instructors Pouyan Mahboubi and Erfan Zahrai, who were upgrading the broadcasting system on campus at the time. We noticed a crack in the shell, said Mahboubi. Before long, the chick had pushed its legs through, then its upper body. It then spent some time with its head stuck in the full egg shell, finally being freed by its parent. The second egg should hatch in a day or two. While a success for this pair of herons, it will be some time before the students can come to some kind of educated conclusion about survival rates for the species in the region. Late last year on B.C.s south coast, it was discovered that only one egg from every two nests was surviving to become a fledge. Prior to the finding, one egg per nest had been surviving. The ACE department launched the Great Blue Heron Project earlier this year to collect data on the local herons and mounted a camera near a heron rookery in Prince Rupert as part of that work. Since March, the camera has been broadcasting live over the internet enabling a close up and personal experience of the nesting and rearing habits of the birds. Through the summer months, the camera will also capture what is happening to the chicks that dont survive. Ornithologists have speculated the reasons for the decline, including increased predation by eagles, habitat degradation, or environmental pollution. This new phase of the project is a fun part of the learning experience, said ACE student Lenda Girard. As students, were excited to see the chicks being born and how they will fare in the wild. Girard adds the class hopes the study contributes to the knowledge base of both biologists and conservationists and helps determine whether the herons are experiencing the same decline here as in southern BC. In addition to data collection to help answer this question, the Great Blue Heron Project is also geared to help educate the community about this species. ACE students have madeand will continue to makeseveral presentations in the community at schools and for other groups. To see the web cam go online to: www.nwcc.bc.ca/BlueHeron/Index.cfm Anyone interested in learning more, becoming involved or contributing to this or future ACE (soon to become the School of Marine & Coastal Studies) projects, please contact Pouyan Mahboubi at pmahboubi@nwcc.bc.ca or toll-free at 1-877-277-2288, ext. 5729.

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