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.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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"I love being a nurse because I have the honor of connecting with my patients during some of their best and some of their worst days and making a difference in their lives is among the most rewarding things that I can do in my own life" - Tenesia Richards, RN

From ushering new life into the world to holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath, nurses are everyday heroes that deserve our respect and appreciation.

To give back to this community that is always giving so selflessly to others, CeraVe® put out a call to nurses to share their stories for a chance to be featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series shining a light on nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to patients and their communities.

First up: Tenesia Richards, a labor and delivery nurse working in New York City who, in addition to her regular job, started a community outreach program in a homeless shelter that houses expectant mothers for up to one year postpartum.

Tenesia | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Upon learning at a conference that black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women's health, Richards decided to take further action to help her community. She, along with a handful of fellow nurses, volunteered to provide antepartum, childbirth and postpartum education to the women living at the shelter. Additionally, they looked for other ways to boost the spirits of the residents, like throwing baby showers and bringing in guest speakers. When COVID-19 hit and in-person gatherings were no longer possible, Richards and her team found creative workarounds and created holiday care packages for the mothers instead.

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