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Bird-watchers—and goats—on duty in Frick Park
Ecologists have teamed up with the public and natural “browsers” to restore native forest habitat for birds and other wildlife at three-acre Clayton Hill in Frick Park. Overrun with invasive and non-native plants such as bush honeysuckle, mile-a-minute, and garlic mustard, the deep shade of the vegetation prevents native species from sprouting. Birds still flock to the spot, but the only available berries are low in nutrients.
Called into action: bird-watchers, who are asked to use the free eBird app to record the species they spy there, and a herd of 10 goats and a donkey from Allegheny GoatScape that partnered with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. Goats are voracious browsers, great animals to clear an area, conservancy staff say. The plan, with the help of the animals, is for staff to plant butterfly-loving native shrubs and trees in the cleared space. Caterpillars, after all, are a favorite meal for migratory and breeding birds. Researchers at the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and the University of Pittsburgh are monitoring how the program might improve the biodiversity of the location’s vegetation and its bird community. So far, regrowth of invasive plants has been minimal.
A $1 million Richard King Mellon Foundation grant will help give flight to a new Avian Research Center at Powdermill Nature Reserve, making its research more accessible to other scientists, students, and the public. The two-year grant includes $700,000 toward the construction of a new 2,700-square-foot avian facility, a major upgrade from the current 150 square feet of bird-banding space in a converted farm maintenance building. “We have one of the country’s leading programs for studying migratory birds,” says Powdermill Director John Wenzel. “This grant recognizes that we have grown well beyond the little bird-banding station that has been a source of pride for 60 years. We now play a major role, nationally and internationally.”
“I felt safe. I felt all staff were professional, knowledgeable, and focused on a safe and fun visit for myself, my husband, and 6-year-old grandson.”
– Visitor testimonial
Happy Retirement, Marilyn
In early August, after nearly 40 years as head of education, Marilyn Russell bid farewell to Carnegie Museum of Art and its audiences, whom she prioritized from day one. Russell joined the museum in 1981 as the supervisor of docent programs, and she earned the department’s top spot eight years later, with a focus on visitor-centered, inquiry-based experiences. An innovator in the museum field, Russell transformed docent tours into conversations between visitors and docents, merging art history, close observation, and visitor response to create a more personal visitor experience—an approach that’s now a model across the field. Her legacy includes introducing In the Moment, an award-winning series of gallery programs for individuals living with dementia and their caregivers, and elective courses on observation and life drawing for University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine students, initiating a focus on art and wellness at the museum. On her 30th anniversary with the museum, Russell told Carnegie magazine, “I really appreciate that this place is about the big ideas of life. And it’s an endless independent study—the learning, and the work of continually exploring new ways to make the museum meaningful to more people.” Thank you, Marilyn!
Museum tested, kids approved
The Warhol’s Making It video series of art demonstrations has been recognized as one of the best online activities for families during the COVID-19 pandemic. The how-to series is up for the Best International Digital Activity Family Friendly Museum Award given by Kids in Museums, an organization that promotes making museums more welcoming to children and families. Give the videos a try at youtube.com/thewarholmuseum
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