blogging from the student's perspective

The BIG Picture

Being in this class has given me a much better idea of how important it is to keep the big picture in mind when working on a project of this nature. It’s easy to get bogged down wanting to see immediate results for one’s hard work, but not all projects work like that—especially in the field of conservation. As a student, I feel that I have been conditioned, to an extent, to think short-term. When is my next test? What grade did I receive on my paper? This classroom experience has really changed that perception. It is safe to say our focus has somewhat shifted from where it originally was, but I do not view this as a negative. Seldom do things of this nature go one hundred percent according to plan. More important than the actual modifications to the plan is how the team responds to these changes. If we can maintain a high level of enthusiasm as a class for the remainder of this project, I am sure that we still have a very in-depth, helpful report for Don Gorney and Lights Out Indy. Years from now, it really will be great to see how far the program has come and to know that we helped it along the way.



Weather Effect?


Hey all, to my knowledge birds migrate towards a warmer climate that produces resources necessary for their survival.  However, I have noticed the past couple days that it has been warm for being November. It is crazy how the weather continues to be nice, when we are used to snow at this time of year. I was wondering if there was any way for a bird to stay in the same location for the full year, that is normally a migratory bird. Do you think birds would create an evolutionary adaptation to stay in the local habitat?  This would save the bird a lot of energy if the weather was nice year round, supporting the necessary resources.  Also in this sense, do you think that global warming will have an effect on migration in the future?

My group has recently been switched from the public outreach group to just the outreach group. Instead of focusing on just the general publics knowledge of Lights Out Indy, we figured the building managers and architects should have knowledge about the program too.  This will allow the people in charge of the buildings to have better understanding of Lights Out Indy. The buildings will receive pamphlets detailing Lights Out Indy and how it pertains to the building, what the affects are and the benefits.  The architects will receive a different pamphlet educating them on how building style affects Lights Out Indy. The general public will receive information about LOI and how to get involved. The reason for the switch is to educate everybody because LOI is still in early development.  This will get the word out quickly to educate people about Lights Out Indy.





The migration season is ending but that does not mean that bird awareness should begin to be overlooked. Just because it is not high season does not mean that the steps we take now cannot help the following years. As our class continues we keep brainstorming and combining ideas our group has settled on a list of targets to aim towards. Our LOI partner, Don Gorney, shared with us this  list of the 20 tallest buildings in Indy. (The link is shared below.) This gave us a good place to begin since many of these are highly lit at night. The number one on this list is Chase Tower standing 49 floors. This became a focal point. Our goal became to try to gain the following of one of Indianapolis’ major icons and that perhaps that will give us the reputation we need in order for more to follow.

View 20 Tallest Buildings in Indy in a larger map
This week I also hope to get in touch with IPL in order to gain some insight to real numbers or costs for nighttime energy usage.

Social Media

As I’ve already mentioned in a previous blog, I have been working with the outreach group for Lights out Indy.  We recently switched our focus from just being the public group to outreach.  This switch means that we will work more with other groups to develop methods to gather more support on a larger level.  With this switch we will work more closely with some other groups.  As the outreach now, I have tried to look into other methods and other sources for ways to reach more people and various groups of people.


The National Biological Information Infrastructure is a great resource for us to use to both gather information and find methods for displaying information.  They have several different ways to portray information.  There are links to several different live or current news sources all centered around bird conservation.  However, as good as this information is, I don’t think it does a good job getting the information to the public.  I believe that there are two major ways to get information to people that is being underutilized.  Citizen Science is a great way to get people involved in a cause like bird conservation but social media is a great method to spread information.  I think that using social media, such as twitter and facebook, more people could learn about what LOI is and what they are doing.  I believe that LOI could greatly benefit from using social media to relay their information to the public.  These upcoming weeks, I will be researching effective social media use and ways for LOI to utilize them.  Hopefully, we will be able to effectively gather information but succeed where other organizations have failed and reach the public.


The Big Blue Bird Killer

The design group recently met with LEED certified architectural consultant, Stewart Whitcomb.  He provided us with great information about the history of urban planning as well as new design techniques being implemented.  After listening to what he had to say, it really gave me some perspective on something that I never took the time to consider.  The design group has been focusing more on the types of materials used or other technologies that both decrease the number of bird strikes as well as decrease energy consumption.  However Stewart brought up an interesting point.  He mentioned that back in the day a lot of emphasis in urban planning was on building orientation in relation to the sun and winds.  This prevented sun over heating the building and allowed for winds to ventilate the building.  However, with the development of air conditioning it made this point in design seem irrelevant.  Due to the cheap energy costs at the time, architects didn’t have to consider these things.  This trend has continued until now, and we are realizing that it is necessary that we revert back to our ways.

Case in point: the Big Blue Bird Killer.  The new Marriot in Downtown Indianapolis is designed in the worst possible manner in regards to these issues.  It is oriented in an East to West Fashion.  Therefore, in the morning the broader portion of the building will be overheated due to the sun, and in the evening the other broad side of the building will be overheated by the sun.  Unlike other hotels, the hotel is regulated by central air system.  Generally each room has individual A/C units, however since the building is made of windows this technique would look aesthetically unappealing.  So the building will pump cold air on one side of the building because of the hotspot heating, and then in the evening will have to pump in air on the other side. 

By turning the building 90 degrees a lot of this would have been avoided.  It is things such as these that we as a society need to be more educated and conscience about.  If anything, this has been something that I will take from this class.  I have gained an appreciation for those committed to make green buildings.  It is not easy to do and it is not the most practical thing.  However, it is the responsible thing as citizens of the Earth.


I think with a scientist mentality. Research, data collection, and reporting my findings as the scientific method states will usually get me through a project. But now I am dealing with not just my professors and students in my class, but the public, businesses, and people who are not necessarily going to care or even pretend to care about what LOI is doing. Outreach, as easy as it sounds, is a very hard task to complete when you consider science. Sometimes I forget that the subject of science bores the majority of people, and that’s why my roommates and family doze off when I go on and on about something cool I learned in my ecology class that day.

This is why I think citizen science is so important. Getting people interested and providing ways of getting them involved can be so helpful when trying to educate them about a problem in the community. I do not remember a certain point at which I knew I was interested in science, but I remember that I was given opportunities to meet scientists who knew what they were talking about, conduct experiments in science fairs, and think creatively so that I thought that nothing was impossible because of science. By creating outreach packages for LOI that will educate, provide opportunities to get involved, and suggest why LOI is important, we can help the cause and make for a better connection between LOI and the city of Indianapolis.

I just found a sample public outreach plan from a presumably less environmental organization, the Great Lakes Dredging team. This plan mentions three things needed for successful public outreach: local advocates, regional advocates, and tools. We have already inventoried our tools, now we must be LOI’s advocates and summon Indianapolis to join us!

We all know we have it… the cookie cutter mentality. We design based off of a continuous pattern that works, it doesn’t have to be the best approach, but it suites the needs of what we are trying to accomplish. After speaking with Stewart Whitcomb, a private consultant, my group and I realized that it will be a difficult effort to promote different design strategies for both existing and new building development projects. When building, you must look at the regulations of what the city requires for building codes etc.  Most of the time, builders will just follow the necessary codes and not worry about the energy efficiency but rather cost expendeture. This causes the cookie cutter mentality to spike. But how can we change this? How can we show that change is both necessary and a positive contribution to the city as a whole. How can we work with both architects and building owners to start looking at the different approaches out there that will not only increase energy saving but will benefit the living community around it. Do you all want to live around cookie cutter societys that only worry about the minimul regulations?  And how does this play into Lights Out Indy. By promoting the benefits to looking outside the box, Lights Out Indy will be able to further impliment and challenege both architects and building owners to see what else is out there but at the same time, helping the avian community from bird strike increases. Building design is an important tool to understand and will benefit Lights Out Indy and its initiative!

For your own pleasure: Check out these awesome tree houses as well as green building designs:

– Ashlee