Heroes

Some birds started to die off, so a high school science teacher used a drone to protect them.

Another cool use for drones? Helping to save bobolinks from extinction.

Some birds started to die off, so a high school science teacher used a drone to protect them.

Have you ever heard of a bobolink?

Meet the bobolink! Photo by Rob Porter/Flickr.


It's a bird that nests in the northern United States and southern Canada before making an impressive flight all the way to South America each year, where it resides for the winter months.

The bobolink is a "threatened" bird species, which means it's likely to be endangered soon.

Over 80% of the bobolink population has been lost in the past 40 years, according to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Why? Mostly because their only nesting habitats — on the ground in fields, grasslands, and prairies — have shrunk, so they've started nesting in farmers' hay fields instead.

The catch is this: Hay harvesting — when big farm machines move across the fields to cut hay — and nesting happen at the same time. So bobolink nests are often decimated before the young birds grow feathers and gain the strength to leave the nest.

But Tom Franklin, a high school science teacher and a cow-calf farmer in Port Elgin, Ontario, had an idea about how to protect these nesting birds.

The common suggestion for protecting bobolinks is that farmers should wait to harvest their hay. But that approach means the hay ends up being lower in quality than if it were harvested during its peak.

Tom had a different idea. What if farmers could use drone technology to locate bobolink nest sites from the air with infrared imaging? Then, they could establish the GPS location of nests, and they wouldn't ruin them.

Drones are pretty cool. Here's the one Tom uses! Photo via Tom Franklin, used with permission.

"It was very difficult to find a drone for use in agriculture," Tom says, "The first quote I got was for $25,000. I realized it would be cheaper to make one myself."

Tom ran a successful Kickstarter earlier this year and raised 3,300 Canadian dollars ($2,519), money he used to purchase a drone and a thermal imaging camera.

Last summer, Tom flew his drones to test the idea for the first time.

"The birds weren't bothered by the drone; they seemed interested," Tom says. "In the future, though, the camera would need to be military grade." Because of the camera he used, he says he got a lot of false positives on nesting locations.

Once bobolink nests are located, Tom suggests using what he calls "conservation haying," a process that avoids bobolink nesting locations when cutting hay. It's basically a haying practice that maximizes both hay quality and grassland bird breeding success.

And he learned something cool about the bobolinks, too.

They were nesting in the middle of the field, as far away from the perimeter as they could get, in a place he started calling "a wildlife island in the middle of the hay field."

"Wildlife island." Photo via Tom Franklin, used with permission.

Tom says that avoiding the middle of the field when doing the first cut of hay — a small area in relation to the perimeter — could keep bobolink nests mostly undisturbed.

And while he doesn't think all farmers need to get their own drones (nor would many want to, likely), he says that "there's a disconnect between the farming community and researchers," and he hopes his project can be a bridge between the two groups.

True
Back Market

Between the new normal that is working from home and e-learning for students of all ages, having functional electronic devices is extremely important. But that doesn't mean needing to run out and buy the latest and greatest model. In fact, this cycle of constantly upgrading our devices to keep up with the newest technology is an incredibly dangerous habit.

The amount of e-waste we produce each year is growing at an increasing rate, and the improper treatment and disposal of this waste is harmful to both human health and the planet.

So what's the solution? While no one expects you to stop purchasing new phones, laptops, and other devices, what you can do is consider where you're purchasing them from and how often in order to help improve the planet for future generations.

Keep Reading Show less
via Tom Ward / Instagram

Artist Tom Ward has used his incredible illustration techniques to give us some new perspective on modern life through popular Disney characters. "Disney characters are so iconic that I thought transporting them to our modern world could help us see it through new eyes," he told The Metro.

Tom says he wanted to bring to life "the times we live in and communicate topical issues in a relatable way."

In Ward's "Alt Disney" series, Prince Charming and Pinocchio have fallen victim to smart phone addiction. Ariel is living in a polluted ocean, and Simba and Baloo have been abused by humans.

Keep Reading Show less
True
Back Market

Between the new normal that is working from home and e-learning for students of all ages, having functional electronic devices is extremely important. But that doesn't mean needing to run out and buy the latest and greatest model. In fact, this cycle of constantly upgrading our devices to keep up with the newest technology is an incredibly dangerous habit.

The amount of e-waste we produce each year is growing at an increasing rate, and the improper treatment and disposal of this waste is harmful to both human health and the planet.

So what's the solution? While no one expects you to stop purchasing new phones, laptops, and other devices, what you can do is consider where you're purchasing them from and how often in order to help improve the planet for future generations.

Keep Reading Show less

With many schools going virtual, many daycare facilities being closed or limited, and millions of parents working from home during the pandemic, the balance working moms have always struggled to achieve has become even more challenging in 2020. Though there are more women in the workforce than ever, women still take on the lion's share of household and childcare duties. Moms also tend to bear the mental load of keeping track of all the little details that keep family life running smoothly, from noticing when kids are outgrowing their clothing to keeping track of doctor and dentist appointments to organizing kids' extracurricular activities.

It's a lot. And it's a lot more now that we're also dealing with the daily existential dread of a global pandemic, social unrest, political upheaval, and increasingly intense natural disasters.

That's why scientist Gretchen Goldman's refreshingly honest photo showing where and how she conducted a CNN interview is resonating with so many.

Keep Reading Show less

Schools often have to walk a fine line when it comes to parental complaints. Diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and preferences for what kids see and hear will always mean that schools can't please everyone all the time, so educators have to discern what's best for the whole, broad spectrum of kids in their care.

Sometimes, what's best is hard to discern. Sometimes it's absolutely not.

Such was the case this week when a parent at a St. Louis elementary school complained in a Facebook group about a book that was read to her 7-year-old. The parent wrote:

"Anyone else check out the read a loud book on Canvas for 2nd grade today? Ron's Big Mission was the book that was read out loud to my 7 year old. I caught this after she watched it bc I was working with my 3rd grader. I have called my daughters school. Parents, we have to preview what we are letting the kids see on there."

Keep Reading Show less