The Highlands Biological Station’s efforts in educating the public about birds and their habitats, and in promoting wildlife conservation in general, were recognized recently as the station was presented Audubon North Carolina’s Bird Lore Conservation Education Award.
Patrick Brannon, education specialist at the HBS nature center, accepted the award on behalf of the station’s staff. The honor was presented by Chris Canfield, executive director of Audubon North Carolina, during that organization’s annual meeting, held in the town of Highlands.
Founded in 1927, the Highlands Biological Station is a year-round biological field station and interinstitutional facility of the University of North Carolina system that has worked closely with Western Carolina University since becoming a part of the UNC system in 1976. Located on a high plateau near Highlands, the station has a principal mission of promoting research and education in biodiversity studies in the region.
James T. Costa, WCU professor of biology and HBS executive director, said he and the station staff are “immensely pleased” by the accolade. Costa noted that the Highlands Plateau was named an “Important Bird Area” last year through Audubon’s global effort to identify and conserve natural areas that are vital to birds and their habitats, and the station’s nature center collaborated with the local Audubon group in developing an exhibit about that initiative. Also, in a related development, the HBS’s botanical garden was approved for inclusion in the North Carolina Birding Trail.
Brannon said the station offers a wide variety of outreach programming through its nature center, and many of those programs address bird-related issues. In addition to providing educational programs for schools throughout Western North Carolina, the nature center sponsors summer day camps for children and lectures on various topics for adult audiences. In 2009, the nature center served more than 17,000 people, including more than 3,200 children through school outreach programming, Brannon said.
During presentation of the Bird Lore Award, Canfield said the honor is named after Bird-lore, a publication that was the precursor to the current AUDUBON magazine.
For more information about programs and special events sponsored by the Highlands Biological Station and the nature center, visit the website http://www.wcu.edu/hbs/ and click on “Nature Center.”
By Randall Holcombe