Evaluating Campus Bird Building Collisions
As humans design with large amounts of glass surface area to increase human well-being through views of nature and increased natural daylight, we are placing birds in danger. Each year hundreds of millions of birds die due to collisions with these glass surfaces, threatening local biodiversity and impacting North American populations. This project intends to conduct a student-led two-phase, two-year bird building collision monitoring study of a set of University of Washington Seattle campus buildings. This project aims to understand when and where collisions occur on campus and how best to prevent future collisions. This project asks to consider its funding to protect local biodiversity on campus, benefiting students, faculty, and staff while reaching a larger audience of community members, researchers, and designers.
There are five goals for Phase 1:
- Provide a year-round data set to determine vulnerable species and campus designs conducive to collisions.
- Develop a transdisciplinary independent study course that will introduce students from any major to bird building collisions as a conservation and sustainable design issue. This course will allow students to engage in a research project on campus without traveling or paying field trip fees. This accessibility and actively seeking to support students from marginalized, LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC communities will welcome students not traditionally included in environmental conservation practices and design fields.
- Raise awareness locally about bird building collisions on campus through campus and community outreach, including tours, signage, visual mitigation techniques, and an informational app or website.
- Identify buildings or features to retrofit with vinyl design patterns that will be applied to the surface of the glass. The approval to retrofit glass surfaces will be obtained after local data has determined that the building or feature is a hot spot for collisions. Ten campus building coordinators are open to retrofitting options, with the Life Sciences Building manager verbally requesting mitigation at their site.
- Commission artwork from student or community indigenous artists as designed collision mitigation artwork that emphasizes indigenous presence on campus.
There are four goals for Phase 2:
- Monitor retrofitted buildings for effectiveness, continue retrofitting where needed, and continue monitoring for collisions in Autumn 2023 and Winter 2024.
- Conduct a perception study of how students, staff, faculty, and campus visitors perceive the bird-protecting designs by asking if their site or campus experience and connection to campus biodiversity are affected by the addition of these designs. This data will also be submitted for publication, the first on this topic.
- Submit the year-round monitoring results indicating vulnerable species and designs conducive to collisions for publication.
- Submit the observed effectiveness of retrofitted buildings or features for publication to provide the foundation needed to implement effective bird-protecting designs on campus and in the community.
Student involvement in the project is crucial for building the foundation for a bird-friendly campus and impacting the field of study through actively participating in data collection and research. The students will not only benefit from contributing to campus research but build a foundation of knowledge of sustainability, bird biology and identification, active stewardship, and increased well-being through campus walks. Students will be involved in this project through two paid research assistant positions, an independent study course, commissioning indigenous students' designs for retrofitting, student volunteers, and through the collision data app/website, any student or community member can participate in the study. Both research assistants are expected to contribute as co-authors, and students enrolled in the independent study course or as volunteers have the option to be included as an author based on their contributions.
This project will directly affect UW students by offering a local, accessible opportunity to participate in a transdisciplinary project. Conservation research and volunteer opportunities are often located off-campus, requiring additional time and funds to travel to the location. Additionally, some environmental courses do not include field trip costs which often are hundreds of dollars per quarter. Participating in environmental or sustainability projects is often necessary for career development. However, volunteering is privilege-based as the expectation is that all students have extra time and funds to participate. By only asking for a few hours of participation a week, students can build their experience and knowledge on campus without time, financial, or transportation burdens. Further, by allowing for volunteer opportunities, any UW or Seattle community member can participate in the study and enjoy the benefits of connecting with nature without lengthy commitments.
Additionally, the project lead and sponsoring department are committed to supporting and seeking students not traditionally included in environmental conservation practices and design fields to participate in the project. This includes designing monitoring routes that meet the accessibility needs of all students and volunteers.
The project includes the following student roles in addition to the project lead:
Two paid research positions are required for the project. Each position is 10 hours a week and will be responsible for a few monitoring hours each week, coordinating volunteers, and filling in as needed. Additionally, each position will have detailed tasks.
- The data research assistant position will be in charge of app or website designs, data entry and clean-up, merging collision data with sets of GIS, weather, and design data, running reports, and creating detailed visuals for publication and outreach. The project has recognized informatics major Jacob Harper as qualified to fill this role beginning in Autumn 2022.
- The outreach and education research assistant position will engage the campus and the local community to help recruit students to join the independent study course or volunteer, reach out to indigenous artists and students on campus to commission indigenous artwork to mitigate collisions, plan campus tours for students and architects, and assist with the design perception study. Additionally, this position requires design skills to produce visual outreach materials.
- The independent study course focuses on understanding and mitigating bird building collisions as a conservation issue and sustainable design challenge. This class allows students to participate in one of the first academic courses addressing the topic and earn credits for their involvement in the project. While the background of the course will include literature from multiple locations, local species and design examples will be observed by students on campus. The students will receive 1-2 credits in the course and will be expected to participate in building monitoring.
- Indigenous vinyl murals created by indigenous students or community members will be commissioned for at least one of the mitigation designs to be applied to the surface of a collision hot spot or building.
- Student volunteers will be recruited through campus outreach initiatives such as visiting classes, speaking with student groups, signage, and campus birding tours led by the outreach research assistant and project lead. The volunteers will be asked to monitor buildings for two hours a week during the 49-day monitoring period. After consulting with students on campus, some prefer the flexibility of volunteering rather than enrolling in a class or applying for research positions. The budget includes a placeholder for volunteer recognition breakfasts held once a quarter on the last day of monitoring. This will likely be sponsored by the College of the Built Environments (funding TBD). Additionally, volunteers will be included in bird walks on campus planned for the independent study course.
- Students unable to participate in the course or as a volunteer can still be involved in the project through the data collection app (or website). Data about and photos of a collision victim can be submitted anywhere on or off campus, connecting the student to local biodiversity while supporting the project.
Education & Outreach:
Through education and outreach, this project will engage with four stakeholders: students, faculty, and staff on campus, the Seattle and the Pacific Northwest communities, researchers in avian conservation, and designers and architects. Throughout both phases of the project, education and outreach about the importance of preventing bird building collisions will be crucial as there is a lack of awareness of the issue. By reaching students who will enter careers in fields that contribute to collisions, this project will create new stewards for protecting birds and biodiversity. This will be achieved through campus events such as art installations, class and volunteering opportunities, two research positions, and informational signs near retrofitted buildings. Further, through publication, the data and solutions have the potential to educate a global audience of researchers, designers, and conservationists. Particularly, architects and designers will benefit greatly from the project's results, including the project partner, the College of the Built Environments.
The UW and Seattle community will find out about the project through focused outreach campaigns, an app or website, mitigation designs as an educational tool, and publications in the following ways:
- Through focused campus outreach, students from underrepresented, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA+ communities will be encouraged to apply for the research assistant positions, join the independent study course, or participate in the study as volunteers.
- Bird building collisions happen across campus and Seattle, any time of day. While the project can identify hot spots where most collisions happen, monitoring efforts cannot gather data from all sites. By introducing students, faculty, and staff to an app or website, allowing them to report collisions at any location, they will not only be introduced to the project but be part of the project without a formal commitment.
- Mitigation designs designed by student and community artists will include signage about the project. They will be used as an educational tool for communicating the importance of protecting birds.
- While publications may reach a small audience, part of the outreach goal is to promote the research to local and national avian conservation networks and non-profits.
Additionally, the project will involve the UW and Seattle community through campus tours, volunteering opportunities, and collaboration with the Seattle Audubon Society in the following ways:
- Campus tours led by the project lead and organized by the outreach research assistant will lead students, faculty, and staff to hot spots of collisions on campus, mitigation techniques, and areas of thriving biodiversity. The tours will target local architecture firms to communicate the need and feasibility of mitigating bird building collisions through design.
- In addition to volunteering to monitor buildings for collisions, the project will reach out to the UW community to gather information about their perception of bird-safe windows and which patterns are more aesthetically pleasing. One hurdle often faced when retrofitting buildings is the perceived design aesthetics. Architects and designers often question if window patterns are burdensome to occupants. The UW community can help clarify this issue, benefiting both birds and designers.
- The Seattle Audubon Society community is supportive of the campus monitoring project and is eager to help or promote the project as part of their Bird-safe Seattle goals as well as contribute $5000 to campus mitigation designs.
- Living Systems and Biodiversity
- Environmental Justice
- Community Development
- Cultural Representation
The project aims to highlight the issue of bird building collisions as a conservation, sustainability, and biodiversity issue on campus and in our region. While not a goal of this project, the UW Collision Mitigation group, led by this project's lead, is currently working towards Bird-Friendly Campus Guidelines that this project's data will support. Furthermore, campus architects, faculty of the College of the Built Environments, and more than a dozen building managers support this project and protecting birds on campus, indicating a momentum for further study and mitigation. Through this project, the campus will become a lasting example of how a bird-friendly campus supports biodiversity through signage and the physical designs applied to glass surfaces. Additionally, the College of the Built Environments and the project lead will explore the long-term management of the app or website. To further secure the project's longevity, the project will attempt to make the app or website data downloadable to the public to identify hot spots in the future.
Each year, up to one billion birds are lost to bird building collisions in the United States (Loss et al., 2014). This enormous yearly loss is one of the four top anthropogenic threats birds face contributing to a 29% net loss of avian populations in North America (Rosenburg et al., 2019). Additionally, this critical conservation issue threatens biodiversity locally, regionally, and for migrating birds throughout the Americas. Protecting biodiversity such as birds also increases overall human well-being through visual and audible connections to nature.
Birds collide head-on into transparent and reflective glass surfaces, killing them, in most cases, instantly. Birds cannot perceive transparent glass surfaces as solid or distinguish between reflections of habitat space or flight paths in the glass. To date, most bird building collision studies focus on fall and spring migration in the central and eastern areas of the United States. A 2021 study by DeGroot et al. monitored collisions on the University of British Columbia campus for five seasons (two winters, fall, spring, and summer), indicating bird building collisions are a year-round problem in the Pacific Northwest and that collision patterns can vary regionally. Additionally, based on a few previous studies, design features of college campuses are likely conducive to collisions. The University of British Columbia, a campus similar in design to the University of Washington, estimates a loss of 10,000 birds yearly to collisions. However, bird building collisions can be prevented through gathering local collision data, applying collision mitigating designs to the surface of the glass, and targeted education strategies.
There are one published study monitoring collisions in the Pacific Northwest and six studies monitoring mitigation designs for effectiveness on in-use buildings. This indicates a significant knowledge gap nationally and in our region in this field of study. The field of study concerning bird building collisions is primarily funded by building owners that have collision issues, small local non-profits, bird-safe product manufacturers, and non-paid student or volunteer-based studies. Projects on this topic have yet to be funded by resources such as NSF. This project seeks to further establish the study of bird building collisions as a vital field of research through example. Additionally, this project has focused on CFS to fund this study for three main reasons:
- To lay the framework for protecting local biodiversity through campus-based student-led initiatives that can be repeated on any campus and actively supports students not traditionally included in environmental conservation practices and design fields.
- To educate, support, and provide a foundation of knowledge of avian conservation for students from all academic backgrounds to professionally participate in this emerging field or become lifelong stewards of avian conservation.
- To prevent conflicts of interest by not accepting funding from private building owners or manufacturers of bird-safe products.
While this project is research-focused, the research will be conducted by students refining their research skills. Further, the results of this project will directly impact the campus community by protecting local biodiversity.
Explain how the impacts will be measured:
This project aims to address the issue of bird building collisions in three ways:
- Collecting collision data on campus contributes to the local study of collisions and identifies local collision patterns, design hot spots, and vulnerable species.
- Mitigating collisions on campus through design strategies and education while monitoring the designs for effectiveness in an ecologically salient setting.
- Providing students with an opportunity to contribute to an environmental conservation study locally while building a foundation of knowledge of why collisions happen, how to prevent them, basic avian knowledge and observation of campus biodiversity. Student involvement will be measured through student contribution in quarterly reports, data collection, and active participation.
The impact of this project will be measured in three ways:
- Through quarterly reports accessible on the project's app or website outlining the monitoring results, student involvement, sharing the number of specimens donated to the Burke Museum, and goals completed over the quarter reaching the campus and local community.
- Through student contributions and participation, the goal of building a local connection to biodiversity and supporting students from underrepresented communities and groups will be assessed quarterly.
- Three research papers will be submitted for publication to reach a broader academic audience. The three publications will evaluate the perception of designs available to prevent collisions on campus, collision monitoring results, and the effectiveness of campus mitigation designs.
This funding request is a: Grant
If this is a loan, what is the estimated payback period?:
|Cost per Item
|Designed Retrofitting Patterns and Signage
|Monitoring Supplies (Total for all quarters)
|App or Website Host/Platform Fees
|Seattle Audubon Society Support (Retrofitting)
|Estimated Completion Date