Volunteer Spotlight: Monitoring Baby Bird Boxes & Counting Shorebirds

We’re excited to put the spotlight on Princeton Hydro Environmental Scientist Emily Bjorhus and her admirable volunteer work.

As an Environmental Scientist, Emily Bjorhus works on a wide range of projects from flood risk management to wetland mitigation to stream restoration. She specializes in wetland and stream ecology and environmental permitting and compliance. Outside of the office, Emily is an active volunteer with Natural Lands and the Delaware Shorebird Project, working to protect natural resources, promote biodiversity, and protect important species. Emily also volunteers at Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Brooklyn, NY teaching Environmental Science students about wetlands. We’ve put together a snapshot of Emily’s volunteer activities:

Natural Lands – Force of Nature Volunteer

Natural Lands is a nonprofit organization that saves open space, cares for nature, and connects people to the outdoors in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. Founded in the early 1950s, today nearly five million people live within five miles of lands under Natural Lands’ permanent protection.

As a Force of Nature volunteer with Natural Lands, Emily has been monitoring ~20 nest boxes located in meadow and forest edge habitat at Gwynedd Preserve since 2018. From April through mid-August, Emily and another volunteer visit the sites every 5-7 days to monitor the nest boxes for the types of species using the boxes, nest condition, nest materials, number of eggs laid, number of eggs that hatch, and number of chicks that fledge. Chickadees, wrens, blue birds, and tree swallows are the primary species that nest in the boxes Emily monitors.

When asked what she loves most about this volunteer work, Emily said, “I love watching how the birds build their nest week after week, seeing the eggs multiply and tracking the chicks’ growth. I even enjoy dodging dive-bombing tree swallows.”

Delaware Shorebird Project – Data Collection Volunteer

Delaware Shorebird Project is led by DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Delaware Museum of Natural History, British Trust for Ornithology and Wash Wader Ringing Group, with the help of experienced and dedicated volunteers like Emily.

The project monitors the health and status of migratory shorebird populations to collect data that can be applied to the conservation of these birds. The research has resulted in better understanding of the ecology of shorebirds migrating through Delaware Bay, management of the horseshoe crab harvest to sustain the shorebirds’ population, and protection of key shorebird habitat.

Emily participated in a 3-day shorebird monitoring initiative, which included counting the number of shorebirds on the beach, re-sighting birds previously marked with leg flags, participating in bird catches, and weighing and measuring birds from the catches. The data collected helps monitor trends in shorebird abundance, migratory routes, condition and other important biological data.

“It’s such a pleasure working with the amazing people that come from all over the world to run and participate in this ambitious study,” said Emily. “The data collected from this program will hopefully aid researchers and policy makers to develop strategies to better protect shorebird habitat in the future.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School Environmental Studies – Guest Speaker

Ms. Hannah Goldstein and her Environmental Science students at Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Brooklyn, NY welcome Emily as a volunteer guest speaker to teach all about wetlands. The instruction also includes a hands-on session where students collect soil samples to determine if hydric soils are present and identify surrounding trees using a dichotomous key.

“Science is such an important subject matter for kids to be learning for a variety of reasons. Environmental science education in particular encourages thought patterns, which get kids engaged in real-world environmental protection activities,” said Emily. “I really enjoy working with Ms. Goldstein and her students. I hope my presentation inspires the students to learn more about wetlands and become ambassadors of wetland conservation.”

 

Emily earned her M.S. in Sustainable Engineering at Villanova University and holds a B.S. in Environmental Science from University of Colorado at Boulder. As an Environmental Scientist for Princeton Hydro, she coordinates, leads and assists with state environmental permitting programs and NEPA compliance and documentation, including preparation of Federal and state permit applications, Endangered Species Act 7 consultations, and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) environmental review processes. In addition, she conducts a variety of environmental field investigations such as wetland and waterbody delineations.

We’re so proud to have Emily on our team and truly value the work she does inside and outside the office.

Teaching NYC High Schoolers About Wetlands

Ms. Hannah Goldstein and her Environmental Science students at Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Brooklyn, NY welcomed Emily Bjorhus, Princeton Hydro Environmental Scientist, to be a guest speaker on the topic of wetlands. The students, 10th, 11th, and 12th graders, learned what defines a wetland, how wetlands function, and why wetland ecosystems are important to our communities. Emily also taught the students how to identify wetlands in the field.

The presentation also involved hands-on instruction, which included a trip outside to the school courtyard where students learned how to collect soil samples using an auger and how to determine if hydric soils are present. To identify surrounding trees, students used a dichotomous key, a tool that allows users to make a series of choices based on characteristics such as leaf and fruit shape. Using the skills and information they learned, Emily helped each classroom determine whether a wetland was present. As it turns out, the courtyard in the middle of Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School does not contain a wetland!

“Science is such an important subject matter for kids to be learning for a variety of reasons. Environmental science education in particular encourages thought patterns, which get kids engaged in real-world environmental protection activities,”  said Emily. “I really enjoyed working with Ms. Goldstein and her students. I hope my presentation inspires the students to learn more about wetlands and become ambassadors of wetland conservation.”

To learn more about Princeton Hydro’s tidal and freshwater wetland services, visit: bit.ly/PHwetland