Professor introduces new ways to help save birds and environment

Image by Swaminathan, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Ariel Weinstein/Staff Writer

South Florida has attracted the attention of many ecologists over the years, based on its climate and varied bird species. These ecologists hope to learn and educate people on the relationship between society and the environment.

John Withey, a professor of the FIU Department of Biological Sciences, will be hosting the event, “Urban Environments: A Bird’s-eye View” at Deering Estate at Cutler on Wednesday Jan. 22, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

An estimated 30 people are expected to attend the event to listen to one of FIU’s most passionate bird researchers. In his lecture, Withey will explain how people can make better designed neighborhoods and environments to improve the health and lifestyle of both humans and birds.

Withey has studied birds for over 20 years. He also teaches ecology and vertebrate zoology, and plans to implement his own course in urban ecology.

“My research at FIU is trying to understand how migratory songbirds use urban habitats–especially patches of hammock in parks and reserves–during migration and their overwintering period,” Withey said.

So far, Withey’s research has only encompassed Miami-Dade county.

Withey has a team of one graduate student and one research assistant, that help him to listen, watch, and trap birds in mist nets.

Withey, who has presented at several scientific conferences, is giving his lecture on birds as a part of the “Speaking Sustainably” lecture series by SEAS, FIU’s School of Environment, Art and Society; he was invited to present his research this month.

“What I try to convey is that even though the urban environment is very altered from what used to be here, we can design our neighborhoods and parks to provide habitat for migrating birds–it benefits the birds and it can benefit us as well,” Withey said.

Vicky Garcia, a sophomore majoring in psychology, shares a passion for birds and the environment. After hearing that this event was taking place, she felt it was a good idea for the university to introduce a lecture about birds, because of their role in the environment.

“They’re beautiful creatures and we should do our best to protect them. I feel this speech is going to educate people on some information that they may already know, but at the same time it will give people a better view of what’s going on in our environment, and ways we can improve it,” said Garcia.

Another student, Sofia Rodriguez, a sophomore majoring in advertising, thinks that “planning out neighborhoods and reducing pollution would help to keep not only humans healthy, but birds as well. This in turn would prevent eliminating such a special piece of nature.”

For more information, contact SEAS at

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