McNair Student’s Research Helping to Save Endangered Species
Editor’s Note: This is an edited version of a feature that ran in the Adrian Daily Telegram in October 2012. Used with permission. Written by John Mulcahy. Photos by Mike Dickie.
A small, green and yellow songbird with a distinct white ring around its eye has become an important part of Siena Heights University student Olivia Smith’s life.
Called the Saipan bridled white-eye, the native of the Mariana Islands in the northern Pacific Ocean is an endangered species thanks to the brown tree snake, introduced to Guam shortly after World War II. The bird no longer exists on Guam and is found only on three other Mariana islands.
Smith, a biology major at SHU, has been studying the bridled white-eye at the Toledo Zoo, where nine of the 24 members of the species in captivity live. The goal is to help the birds successfully reproduce and raise offspring in captivity, a safeguard in case the species goes extinct in the wild.
“What I’m focusing on is the captive (bird) conservation effort,” Smith said.
Smith was invited by Toledo Zoo curator of birds Robert Webster to present her findings at an Association of Zoos and Aquariums Avian Scientific Advisory Group passerine (song bird) workshop Oct. 12-14, 2012, in Denver, an experience Smith called “really great.”
Smith was an intern at the Toledo Zoo in summer 2011, stayed on as a volunteer, then asked if she could do research there. She is focused on what conditions the bridled white-eye needs to successfully produce offspring that make it to adulthood. So far, that has not happened with the birds in captivity.