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MAPS at Fernbank Forest

Birds play an important role in our survival on this planet. They are one of the many creatures that aid in maintaining the balance of our ecosystem and are also a reliable source to look to for telltale signs of when something may be out of balance. The Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) program is a cooperative effort among public agencies, private organizations, and individual bird ringers in North America that monitor ecosystems across the country. In order to accomplish this, a network of over 500 bird banding/monitoring stations have been established to assess and monitor the population of approximately 120 species of land birds during the breeding season.

Monitoring is done by teams of professional biologists and highly trained volunteers. With collected data, the teams determine the approximate demographic cause(s) of population change; suggest management actions and conservation strategies to reverse population declines and maintain stable or increasing populations.

In Atlanta, one can find a mist-netting MAPS monitoring site in the Fernbank Forest. The team is lead by Trecia Neal, an Ornithologist/Biologist with the Fernbank Science Center. Fernbank Forest is a perfect site for monitoring the effects on our ecosystem. It’s one of the few strands of original forest remaining in the Atlanta metro area. Atlanta’s original vegetation has been destroyed over the years by farming and later by urban and suburban development. The forest is 65 acres of relatively undisturbed mixed hardwood forest consisting of large yellow poplars trees that exceed 50 centimeters in diameter and make up 20 percent of the tree population. Also present are white oak, northern red oak, black oak, and post oak along with several species of hickories. Trees, shrubs, wildflowers and ferns are labeled so these plants can readily be identified. In addition to the various species of birds, animals such as squirrels, chipmunks, box turtles and snakes live undisturbed in their natural environment.

Fernbank Forest is also used as a “living laboratory” throughout the year with instructors teaching students ranging from kindergarten to graduate school and public groups from cub scouts to senior citizens in fall, winter, spring and summer classes. In the afternoons and on weekends public visitors can walk 1½ miles of paved trails and enjoy the beauty of this unspoiled woodland, guided by a seasonal trail guide that may emphasize tree identification, wildflowers, forest ecology, etc.

A healthy ecosystem equates a healthy environment for animals and humans alike. With increased pollution, and tree removal due to excessive development across the U.S., we’re in danger of destroying our ecosystem. What can you do to help protect and conserve our environment? Consider building a wildlife sanctuary in your own backyard. A successful wildlife sanctuary should have a wide variety of vegetation; various types of food, sufficient water, shelter, and nesting sites.

For more information about the Fernbank Science Center, MAPS program and tips on creating your own backyard wildlife sanctuary consider visiting the following websites:

Fernbank Science Center is located at 156 Heaton Park Dr. NE in Atlanta and can be reached by phone at 678-874-7102.


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