Freshkills Park Tweeting Bird Boxes
Freshkills Park, formerly the world’s largest landfill, serves as a model case study in ecological restoration. This project gives the public a lens into the process of restoration on a typically closed site using digital tools, remote investigations, and citizen science. This unique digital app to broadcast the ongoing ecological restoration of the Park and create new potentials in the often opaque field of scientific research. We are working to launch the app with a section highlighting one of our research projects investigating the health of the park’s cavity nesting birds.
This first phase entails outfitting one of our research bird boxes with a sensor that will detect a bird’s comings and goings. When the sensor is triggered, a message “from the bird” will be sent to our Twitter followers along with a still image. The message will direct remote visitors to watch a live feed of the interior of the bird box. This first phase will inform a wider network of bird boxes around the entire 2,200-acre park with an accompanying visualization. Seed funding will support this proof of concept that will allow us to seek funds for the larger project that also includes tech workshops for youth to build the “live tweeting” bird boxes. We want to share some of the restoration outcomes (such as the return of bird species) with the public, and get youth excited about using technology in ways that actually get them to spend more time interacting with nature and the outdoor world.
We will build our first tweeting/video streaming bird box, with help from some techies who are better at this than we are, that will consist of a live streaming bird cam and an infrared sensor to detect arrivals/departures which will be fed to a Raspberry Pi computer. Software will be written that will process all of the inputs and send both tweets and live video feeds to the internet. The funds will support the hardware costs, and the labor of a freelancer versed in these builds to help us.
why we’re doing it
The communities on Staten Island surrounding the Park struggled with the impact of landfill operations for over half a century. Residents were burdened by persistent landfill odors, air pollution from truck traffic, noise, and open mounds of garbage matted with seagulls. The site is now a haven for wildlife and a textbook example of ecological restoration. The Tweeting Bird Box project will allow the community to begin to experience the Park before it’s fully open and will give area youth new ways to learn by incorporating technology into environmental science.
The project will aid some of our existing research. Along with giving the general public a lens into the activity of the park’s growing bird population, it will produce data related to the activity levels and prevalence of these cavity nesting birds for use by the scientists studying these bird populations at the park. Our hope is that the project will also publicize to the scientific community that there is a great opportunity for research focusing on the process of ecological restoration at Freshkills Park, and that by providing these opportunities for people to access the transformation at the park, we will see increased investment in its continuation and in the health of our green spaces as a whole.