Taking Flight Nights: The PELIproject

September 11, 2018 6:00 pm

Categories: Aviary Events

Join us in our new interactive series: Taking Flight Nights: Teen STEAM Cafés at Tracy Aviary!

These events are designed just for teens! Hardworking members of our Teen Advisory Board have invited professionals in the fields of science, technology, engineering, art, and math to share their work through engaging hands-on activities and discussions.

The theme for September 11th will be The PELIproject: A collaborative project aimed at observing pelicans and their unique ecosystem through cameras. Wildlife Biologist Ashley Kijowski and Great Salt Lake Instiitute Coordinator Jaimi Butler will introduce us to this exciting community science program! Check out their bios, more information on PELIproject, and photos from PELIproject camera traps below!

Gates open at 5:45 pm. Food and fun start at 6:00 pm. Please note that these programs are for ages 13-18.

Please register here to make sure we have enough food for you!

For more information on our Teen STEAM Cafés, visit our Taking Flight Nights page!

photo of Ashley Kijowski hiking with a black dog

Ashley Kijowski is a Wildlife Biologist at the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem Program (GSLEP) within the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR). Here she develops research questions, prepares study design and conducts research in regards to the Great Salt Lake ecosystem. The focus of GSLEP is on managing the commercial brine shrimp fishery to ensure parity among harvesters and control the harvest to make certain the ecosystem needs are met. Before moving to GSLEP in 2013, she worked a variety of jobs throughout northern Wisconsin and Illinois with a focus on wetland creation, restoration and monitoring. Kijowski has a BS from Illinois State University in Biology and Environmental Science and an MS from the University of South Dakota in Ecology with a focus on invertebrate community ecology and conservation.

Jaimi Butler photo square

Jaimi Butler is the coordinator of the Great Salt Lake Institute, housed at Westminster College. Despite the Great Salt Lakes’ reputation for being inhospitable Jaimi fell in love with the lake and made it her place. After graduating with her Fisheries and Wildlife degree from Utah State University in 1999 Jaimi has helped increase knowledge and shape perceptions of the Lake through work in the private sector, government, and academia. Jaimi can barely remember a time when she wasn’t using airplanes, boats, four-wheelers, airboats, and stand up paddle boards to get around one of Utah’s most amazing ecosystems. Jaimi’s primary areas of studies include the brine shrimp and bird populations that thrive at the lake. When she’s not knee deep in salty water doing research or lost in grant documents, Jaimi and her students are likely educating the community about the importance of the lake.

camera trap image of juvenile American white pelicans on Gunnison Island at sunset

Great Salt Lake is an oasis in the desert for hundreds of thousands of migratory birds. It is also an important breeding ground for several species of waterfowl and waterbirds. In fact, Gunnison Island, located on the North Arm of Great Salt Lake houses the largest breeding colony of American White Pelicans in the western United States. Every spring, an average of 11,000 pelicans nest and raise young on Gunnison Island in Great Salt Lake. They use the island because it is a place free from disturbance from humans and predators such as coyotes and foxes. In recent years, however, Great Salt Lake experienced low water levels, which has allowed a land bridge to form between the mainland and Gunnison Island. This land bridge has allowed humans to illegally access the island and has also allowed coyotes onto the island. The presence of these disturbances could be very harmful for this delicate breeding population.

camera trap image of a coyote crossing onto Gunnison Island via a land bridge

Because pelicans are adverse to disturbance, the arrival and departure from Gunnison Island, as well as behaviors in the presence of predators or events like intense spring storms is relatively unknown. The installation of wildlife trap cameras along with the PELIcam, a live camera that shows a wide-view of several pelican pods, will allow biologists and students from Westminster to learn more about the life history of these birds with minimal disturbance. The wildlife trap cameras have collected thousands upon thousands of images of pelicans in their natural habitat and we need your help to analyze them! The Great Salt Lake Institute at Westminster College is creating a Zooniverse database for the PELIproject and with the help of citizen scientists like you we hope to learn more about the American White Pelican population at Gunnison Island. There are even images of owls, falcons and herons to check out too!

image from a livestreaming camera on Gunnison Island of adult pelicans in flight and juveniles in the distance on the groundcamera trap image of a juvenile pelican inserting its beak into the pouch of another pelican to feedcamera trap image of a backlit pelican's head with light showing through its pouch