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Student project enables public to watch Blue Herons nest and hatch on NWCC web cam

Students enrolled in the Applied Coastal Ecology (ACE) program at Northwest Community College (NWCC) in Prince Rupert are trying to answer a question that has bird experts throughout the province perplexed: Why has the survival rate of the iconic Great Blue Heron suddenly declined by 50 per cent in southern B.C. While helping the overall search to find answers, NWCC students are also trying to find out whether the same thing is happening to the local Heron population. The ACE group has launched the Great Blue Heron Project this year to collect data on the local herons and have mounted a camera near a heron rookery in Prince Rupert as part of that work. The camera will broadcast live over the internet enabling a close up and personal experience of the nesting and rearing habits of the birds. It will also capture what is happening to the chicks that dont survive. From late March through to August, the public will be able to see what is happening through the live web cam link up in the tree via the NWCC Web site at: Were hoping the camera feed will give the public a glimpse of these magnificent animals in the wild, said Pouyan Mahboubi, ACE instructor. The students are excited to engage the public but foremost to help find out whether or not the Great Blue Heron is suffering the same population drops in the North. The question about survival rate was posed in November 2008 when Ross Vennesland, a species at risk recovery specialist at Parks Canada, reported the sudden and staggering drop noticed in B.C.s south that year. Where one egg out of four in a typical nest had been surviving to become a fledge, now only one egg from every two nests is surviving. Ornithologists have speculated the reasons for the decline, including increased predation by eagles, habitat degradation, or environmental pollution. Interestingly, a 2005 study by Canadian scientist Dr. Louis Lefebvre, who developed a method of measuring avian IQ, found that herons were among the most intelligent birds. So why are their populations in such rapid decline 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 are doing dozens of presentations in the community at schools and for other groups. I am thrilled to be a part of this process of educating the public and generating interest around this species, said Lenda Girard, an ACE student involved in the project. Hopefully, our study will contribute to the knowledge base of both biologists and conservationists and help determine whether these animals are in danger of decline in the Prince Rupert area as they have been in southern B.C. NWCC is grateful to everyone involved in the project including donors, students and instructors, said Martine Gauthier, dean of instruction at the college. Without such incredible support this project could never have come to fruition. It is an amazing learning opportunity for our students and exemplifies how the incorporation of service learning into education can contribute to scientific as well as local knowledge. This type of project connects our college and students to the communities it serves; after all, we are a community college. Thanks to our sponsors: CityWest; Odd Eidsvik -Eidsvik & Associates; Rupert Cleaners & Laundry; Dr. Corbett Orthodontist; The Electrician; WestBurn Electrical Co. Ltd.; Oldfield Creek Fish Hatchery; Zellers; Hecate Straight Rotary 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 or toll-free at 1-877-277-2288, ext. 5729.

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