Students blaze a trail of biodiversity

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A pond bustling with diverse plant and aquatic life at Audubon Greenwich. Christina Weiler ’17.

Convent of the Sacred Heart seniors dove into ponds and streams at Audubon Greenwich, a 285-acre sanctuary for nature, September 25.  Education specialist Mr. James Flynn led the way as Advanced Placement (AP) and Honors Environmental Science students waded through plant and aquatic life in order to broaden their understanding of the environment around them.

A pond bustling with diverse plant and aquatic life at Audubon Greenwich.
A pond bustling with diverse plant and aquatic life at Audubon Greenwich. Christina Weiler ’17.

The tour began in the lobby of the Kimberlin Nature Education Center at 11 a.m. Mr. Flynn explained that the function of the facility is to “engage and educate people to conserve, restore, and enjoy nature—focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats,” according to audubon.greenwich.org
Not long after, the group of 29 students began the tour. They hiked alongside lush gardens and trees, noticing and studying various types of flowers along the way.
Once they arrived at a pond secluded behind trees, the group gathered and listened to a brief lecture on the livelihood of the inhabited organisms, or “critters,” as Mr. Flynn colloquially referred to them.
Mr. Flynn enthusiastically reported that companies and consumers have become more sustainable in recent years. People are using fewer pesticides, an act of conservation that preserves the quality of life of countless organisms. However, Mr. Flynn warned that problems such as toxic fluids leaking from older cars and road salts still harm plants and wildlife within communities nationwide.
After the lecture, students investigated Audubon’s diverse wildlife. Dispersing into groups of two and three, they collected different species of aquatic and insect life in order to learn about organisms’ identifying features and the importance of biodiversity.
Mr. Flynn is confident that temporarily removing species from their habitats in this way is not at all harmful.
“Nature is resilient,” Mr. Flynn said. Audubon strives to study the organisms in order to better protect them and develop a cooperative relationship with the environment.
AP and Honors Environmental Science students investigate aquatic life at Audubon Greenwich.
AP and Honors Environmental Science students investigate aquatic life at Audubon Greenwich. Christina Weiler ’17.

There are many opportunities for community members to involve themselves in Audubon’s efforts. Younger students can enjoy hands-on activities like examining animal specimen and searching for eroding rocks. Research opportunities are available for older students to practice solving real-world problems through Citizen Science. The Nature Store & Gift Shop is available for visitors to purchase books and mementos. The rest of the facility is open for public exploration for a small admission fee.
“I have passed the Audubon center in Greenwich many times, but I knew nothing about the land there,” senior Katie Kablack said. “Finally visiting the Audubon helped me understand how what we do to our water affects plant and animal species. It made me think about how my daily actions affect local rivers and other bodies of water, and consequently, its habitants.”
Audubon staff members dedicate long hours to ensure the sanctuary makes an impact on its visitors.
“Working at Audubon is not a traditional 9 to 5 job. It’s more than that. Staff members are very patient and get to learn new things every single day,” Mr. Flynn said.
The trip to Audubon Greenwich exposed students to issues like water quality and pollutants that may not have concerned them before. Embodying the Audubon mission, the Environmental Science classes returned to Sacred Heart equipped with the knowledge necessary to continue to appreciate and care for the natural world around them.
– Christina Weiler, Arts and Entertainment Editor