Volunteer

Thank you for your interest in donating your time and skills to the RRBO! We rely on volunteers to do bird surveys, help band birds, trim net lanes, make bird bags, and assorted chores.

Bird banding

[Currently, we have no banding openings, and due to a wait list and University guidelines, are not taking new applications at this time] As the only full-time banding operation in southeast Michigan, there is a great deal of interest in our program, so please be advised that banding positions are very limited. We typically have one or two openings per year, and usually require at least two weekday mornings a week with a full year or more commitment.

Bird banding is a specialized skill, and not everyone is able to meet the qualifications or demands on their time. Here are some traits we’re looking for:

  1. Good physical condition, willing to walk 1 to 3 miles per day, often at a brisk pace.
  2. Excellent vision (correction okay), especially for close work. No color blindness.
  3. Excellent manual dexterity. Releasing birds from nets is delicate work which needs to be done carefully but quickly (some people with large hands find it difficult).
  4. Good knowledge of Michigan birds and their plumages. Familiarity with bird topography and molts is essential, but in-depth details can be learned “on the job.”
  5. Previous experience handling birds preferred, banding birds even better.

We ask for a commitment of one or two days per week (the same two weekdays each week) beginning around dawn until at least 10 a.m. but possibly to 1 p.m., depending on conditions. Training is only done during fall migration (approximately Labor Day through October). We also ask for a commitment of at least two fall seasons. We realize this is a large time demand, but in order to gather data in a proper scientific manner, we need well-trained, dedicated volunteers.

We always have a waiting list, and there is a “pecking order” of sorts:

  1. Experienced returning banders.
  2. Students: Graduate students, especially those willing to do research at UM-Dearborn; or undergraduates who have completed Field Biology, especially those applying for research credit or independent study.
  3. Community members with a serious interest in ornithology.

After reviewing these criteria, please send a letter (attached to an email, if you like) to Julie Craves. Please provide: your background, especially your level of experience in identifying Michigan birds and any animal handling experience; your anticipated schedule for the following autumn; and a statement of your motivation and expectations regarding bird banding. You may include a resume or CV.

Other tasks

If banding doesn’t fit into your schedule, RRBO also sometimes utilizes volunteers for vegetation surveys, net lane maintenance, or marketing and fundraising (if the latter, you should have a background in those areas). Please indicate your willingness or availability for those tasks, if interested.

Spring-summer 2014 volunteer position: Identification of wild roses on campus. If you have a keen botanical bent including knowledge of botanical terms, are able to use technical keys to identify plants, pay strong attention to detail, like working outdoors, and can work independently, we have a project in which plants in the genus Rosa, growing wild in the campus natural area, need to be located, mapped, and identified to species. The project proposal can be downloaded here (Word doc). If you are interested, please indicate your qualifications and interest to Julie Craves. Serious only, please.

Research opportunities

Students may arrange for independent research credit on projects related to work being done at the Rouge River Bird Observatory. Generally, projects focus on the fall diet of Catharus thrushes, and include fruit phenology, nutrient content and other characteristics of different species of fruit, and vegetation surveys. Other projects can be discussed. Qualified students are also invited to participate as bird banders when space allows.

University of Michigan-Dearborn students should arrange credit through their major advisor. Students from other universities are also welcome. Potential credit through UM-D and collaborations can be arranged.

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