Many of us join our Audubon chapter to learn. Our interest is not just about birds, but also about the environment they inhabit and our interactions with it. Audubon has a reputation for educating its members that is well deserved. Monthly programs with experts in many fields, bird walks with guides who really know their local setting and its birds, and associating with colleagues with varied backgrounds who have the same goal as we do make for a very vital experience. We all know that a major mission of the Audubon Society is education. How does Mesilla Valley Audubon approach this?
Fulfilling our mission of environmental education:
One of the most important goals of any Audubon chapter is to foster environmental education. Members of the Mesilla Valley Audubon Society (MVAS) are firmly committed to teaching children and adults the importance of appreciating nature, preserving our natural resources and protecting natural habitats. Conservation and concern for wildlife are especially important in an environment as fragile as the Chihuahuan Desert. Through our education programs, Mesilla Valley Audubon Society builds greater public awareness of our surroundings and of the value of preserving natural areas. Following are highlights of MVAS’s ongoing education initiatives.
Our most successful school program has been Audubon Adventures, made available through MVAS funding to fourth-grade classrooms in the south central New Mexico area, including Las Cruces, White Sands, Alamogordo and Truth or Consequences. The previous Education Committee Chairman (and retired schoolteacher), C.J. Goin, worked diligently every year to supply natural history and science curriculum to school children in our regions. He also partnered with New Mexico State Parks to sponsor classroom outings at Leasburg Dam State Park and Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park. If you have experience or are interested in helping us continue these activities, please contact MVAS leadership.
Our monthly meetings include presentations on bird and conservation research, history, identification, birding techniques and equipment, local birding opportunities, and more.
MVAS has developed several beginning and intermediate bird identification classes. If you are new to the area or just want to get acquainted with local birds and where to find them, these classes are for you! You will learn to identify birds by their shapes, sizes, sounds, behaviors and habitat. Classroom sessions will be led by expert birders who will also accompany the class on field trips. Saturday field trips to local birding spots will reinforce concepts learned in classroom sessions. Watch this webpage and our Facebook page for upcoming classes.
The Mesilla Valley Audubon Society Richard Bischoff Scholarship is your membership dues at work! MVAS is pleased to offer a one-year, $1,500 scholarship to a graduate student at New Mexico State University. The MVAS scholarship is available to graduate students in the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Ecology, Department of Biology or the Geography Department. For more details about this scholarship and instructions on how to apply, click here. If you would like to give a larger gift to help MVAS continue and increase this important award, please contact us through this web page and an MVAS board member will reach out to you personally.
Award winners traditionally make a live presentation of their research to the MVAS members. Currently this is done via Zoom.
The 2021 Scholarship winner, Leah White, did research on "The Influence of Wildfire and Forest Management on Large Mammal Distribution, Habitat Use, and Co-occurrence in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico." Her project was designed to document the return of mammalian life to the area depending on the extent of habitat loss from fire and other variables. Leah chose four mammals for study: black bear, mule deer, coyote, and elk. She placed a total of 154 cameras in areas with varying levels of habitat damage after the devastating wildfires in New Mexico in 2020.
The 2020 recipient of the Bischoff Award is Clare O'Connell. She presented us with a brief video thanking MVAS for her award. For a description of her plans for using her Bischoff Award you may view the video by using the following link: fullsizeoutput_3.mov.
The 2019 recipient of the Bischoff Award was the New Mexico State University "Girls on Outdoor Adventures for Leadership and Science" (GALS), which introduces girls from high schools in the southern New Mexico area to the great outdoors with a summer program featuring a 5 day hike to the Gila Wilderness, where they become acquainted with much that it has to offer. They have their own website (https://aces.nmsu.edu/gals/) describing what they do and who they are.
The Lorraine Schulte Excellence in Teaching Award is presented each spring to a local teacher, grades K-12, who exemplifies excellence in environmental education. It has been funded for many years with the generous donations from one of our founders, Lorraine Schulte. With her passing in 2018, the status of this award is uncertain. If you would like to discuss a gift to MVAS to help continue this important award, please contact us through this web page and an MVAS board member will reach out to you personally.
To everyone's benefit, the National Audubon Society allied itself with eBird.org, and the Mesilla Valley Audubon chapter has enthusiastically jumped on board. An outgrowth of the Cornell (University) Lab of Ornithology, eBird is a vast network of bird science. Working through the internet, birding data from individuals all over the world is collected to document bird populations and their dynamics. It is open to everyone, and invites us all to participate as citizen scientists as we go about our bird walks and other activities. If you are new to Audubon birdwatching, check out https://ebird.org/home and join the fun!