Photos courtesy of Hayden Boettcher November 22, 2023
UD students receive Green Grant from UD’s Office of Sustainability to help reduce bird collisions on Lewes campus
In the United States alone, hundreds of millions of birds die every year from inadvertently flying into windows. At the University of Delaware’s Cannon Laboratory, located on the Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes, students are familiar with these unfortunate window strikes, as birds will oftentimes find themselves accidentally flying into the building’s floor-to-ceiling reflective windows.
That these windows are located next to a lush, native garden — which is reflected in those windows — only amplifies the problem, as studies have shown that bird strikes occur at windows more frequently when they are located near heavily vegetated areas.
Now, thanks to a $5,000 Green Grant from the UD Office of Sustainability, as well as funds from the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment (CEOE) and the School of Marine Science and Policy, an effort is underway to help significantly diminish the number of bird strikes on these windows through the use of circular-shaped decals, which help reduce the reflective properties of the windows and reduce the likelihood of a bird collision.
Chris Williams, associate provost and academic director for the Office of Sustainability, said the Office of Sustainability was excited to award $5,000 to the CEOE graduate students during the 2023 Green Grants competition as their proposal provides a valuable solution to improving UD's sustainability goals.
“This proposal to reduce bird mortality was a perfect blend of scholarly engagement to promote a more sustainable campus,” Williams said. “It is estimated that upwards of one billion birds, globally, are killed each year when they fly into buildings, or are confused by artificial lights at night or by reflective or transparent glass surfaces. Reduced bird populations have impacts on ecosystem function, controlling pests, pollinating flowers, spreading seeds and regenerating forests."
Hayden Boettcher, a doctoral student in the School of Marine Science and Policy studying marine bioscience, and Justin Guider, who graduated from UD in 2023 with a master’s degree in marine studies with a concentration in oceanography, are the two leads for the project. Both said they have witnessed bird strikes firsthand while studying at the Lewes campus.
“We would see it ourselves but also have other students and staff mention it to us,” Guider said. “I had some students come to me, knowing I was into birds, and ask me if there was anything that could be done about it. So it was just recognizing the problem and then looking into some solutions and finding out about the decals.”
Boettcher said that for years, he and Guider had talked about doing something about the problem.
“Finally, we decided to put pen to paper and go for it,” Boettcher said. “So I’m glad it ended up working out.”
In order to get the decals up on the windows, a group of various members of UD faculty and staff aided in the effort. These included Jen Clem, the facilities manager at the Hugh R. Sharp campus in Lewes; Mark Angeline, campus coordinator for the Hugh R. Sharp campus; and Katharina Billups, director of the School of Marine Science and Policy, who were all instrumental in helping move the installation of the decals forward.
In addition, Peter Krawchyk, vice president of facilities, real estate and auxiliary services, as well as the University architect, was the one who signed off on the idea and chose the decals with a dot design to be installed on the windows.
Window decals have been growing in popularity in recent years. New York City, for instance, implemented a law in 2021 requiring all construction projects to use bird-friendly materials on exteriors up to 75 feet off the ground.
Because of this, Boettcher and Guider are hopeful that UD can become a leader in the field when it comes to helping reduce bird strikes.
“It seems like it’s a trend that is starting and this is kind of low-hanging fruit,” Boettcher said. “It doesn’t take a lot of effort to reduce these strikes, and so the hope is that we can test this out on a small scale in our building and then if these measures, like the ones found in New York City, start working their way into Delaware, then UD is poised and ready to go lead that charge.”
The decals were installed permanently in October, which, Guider pointed out, is right in time for the peak of bird migration season.
For more information on the Office of Sustainability’s Green Grants program, visit the Office of Sustainability’s website.