This will be my final blog post, and fittingly, the post I’m most excited about.  I have been researching and organizing this event since back in November, I’ve put a lot of time and energy into it, and it was awesome to finally see it come to fruition. With the help of our partners, we were able to put together a program that allowed us to provide an exciting outdoor experience that focused on citizen science and birding.


On Friday February 17th, 2017, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial held its first ever Great Backyard Bird Count event. With help from our amazing partners at the Audubon Center at Riverlands, JNEM held a citizen science-based field trip for schools from two states, Missouri and Illinois, as well as a free public event on the following day, Saturday February 18th.

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an international event that allows bird watchers of all ages and skill levels to create a real-time snapshot of bird populations around the world. This event was an opportunity for participants to contribute to a huge body of scientific data and to help expand scientists’ understanding of birds around the world.

Students hunt for caches using their GPS units

Students were instructed by Audubon staff and volunteers on the importance of citizen science projects like the Backyard Bird Count. They were guided through trails on the refuge and educated on bird identification, field markings, and the use of binoculars. Students also acted as “volunteer citizen scientists” to help locate and identify the many species of birds around the refuge. During the two-day event, over 100 volunteers participated and helped to count and identify 21 species and over 300 birds!

Justin Shew, Conservation Program Manager at National Great Rivers Research & Education Center and NPS volunteer, teaches students how to use their binoculars and identify different species of birds

Thanks to an inter-agency collaboration with US Fish and Wildlife, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and Treehouse Wildlife Center, JNEM was able to provide six place-based learning stations that featured topics on the rich natural and cultural history of our region. In addition to the main event, the field-trip offered birdhouse building, a bird characteristics and beak adaptation activity, a live rescued bald eagle, and a Lewis & Clark living history activity by our interpretation rangers at JNEM.

Ranger Don guides students through the bartering process in his fur trading game


Ranger Isaiah showcases the “mountain man” garb as well as the many tools they used in their trapping
US Army Corps of Engineers ranger Janet assists our education director with the bird house building station

The Backyard Bird Count event at Riverlands saw 184 students and 426 public attendees on its inaugural weekend. We were ecstatic to have provided this educational experience for so many future scientists and stewards of our public lands. We hope to continue this event on an even larger scale for years to come!

Rescued Immature Bald Eagle

New Partnerships formed: 2 (Tree House Wildlife and Audubon)

Official Volunteers (those who actually completed a volunteer form): 75

Schools Served: 2

Event Attendance: 184 students, 426 members of the public

The success of this event seemed like a fitting end to my time as a CVA at Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. I am ending my position early in order to accept a job offer surveying for the Northern Spotted Owl in Oregon, and I couldn’t be more excited. And while I’m moving on to a position that more directly puts my degree to work, I will undoubtedly use everything I’ve learned throughout my time as a CVA. I know that in the future I will be able to use the project-planning and volunteer community organizing skills that I’ve learned during my time here.

My supervisors, co-workers, and our park partners have been unbelievably helpful in mentoring me throughout my 6 months at this park. They have also been extremely flexible and supportive in allowing me to shoe-horn in environmental education programming to a more or less strictly cultural/historic site. Besides all of that, they’ve been a great group of people to work for!

Thanks again,