Student interns in Milford immersed in protecting threatened shoreline birds
MILFORD >> More than 250 volunteers across Connecticut are reporting to Genevieve Nuttall every week about the activity of osprey in 330 nests, so she knows there are 118 chicks that have already hatched.
“Most of them are so excited,” Nuttall said of the volunteers when they share the information. “They act like it’s their own kids being born.”
As an intern living at the Connecticut Audubon Society Coastal Center at Milford Point, Nuttall can look over at osprey nest platforms any time to catch a glimpse of the great predators. It’s something that still hasn’t gotten old, she said.
“I’m so happy I’ve been given this opportunity,” she said. “I’m very interested in conservation, particularly for birds.”
Nuttall is one of three college-age female interns for the Connecticut Audubon Society this summer, and all are bringing their love of science and passion for conservation to the community.
They said they were excited to be women working in science and look forward to a career in conservation after their internships.
“We’re helping people reassociate with nature and redefine how they fit in the ecosystem,” said Lena Ives, one of the interns. “We’re reigniting something that’s been dampened in the past.”
Ives is a field technician intern for the Audubon Alliance for Coastal Waterbirds, of which the Connecticut Audubon Society is a member, and she spends her days out on the shore with four other women from other organizations in the alliance, tracking the populations of the threatened coastal birds that nest in the state.
She also works to educate people on the beaches about the threatened species so they know how best to avoid creating harmful disturbances for the birds.
“The birds are a lot more susceptible to human interference,” she said. “It’s been great to teach people.”
Sometimes, this is challenging, she said, as the birds can move onto people’s property, but often shore residents are receptive to adapting behaviors to protect a threatened species such as piping plovers or American oystercatchers.
Ives’ prior research at the University of Connecticut, where she is a rising senior, has been of marshland birds, so working along the shore is a new experience. Birds can be difficult to see along the beaches, she said, but she’s getting better.
One bird that’s particularly hard to see is the piping plover, she said, but she helps put up fences around their nesting areas and keep an eye out for when chicks hatch.
After a difficult hurricane season down South, conservationists had been concerned about the return of piping plovers to Connecticut this year.
Ives said there are seven nesting pairs at Milford Point and chicks have hatched in two nests already.
Also helping to monitor the piping plovers at Milford Point is Malina Giantomidis, who grew up down the road from the coastal center. Giantomidis is a rising senior at the University of New Haven studying marine biology, but she is spending her summer with the Connecticut Audubon Society helping to monitor coastal birds and the purple martins that nest at the point.
“I’m very familiar with Long Island Sound,” she said, and she has always been passionate about the conservation and restoration of the Sound.
Now, as an intern for the Connecticut Audubon Society, she gets to interact with many people who are visiting Connecticut from other states and do not know very much about the Sound or the species that rely on it, particularly the birds.
“We’re educating them how to coexist with other species,” Giantomidis said. “We can coexist in a way that’s positive.”
Connecticut Auduobon Society Communication Director Tom Andersen said the organization was happy to have all three women working this summer.
“These three young women are doing really important, basic conservation science work,” Andersen said. “They’re diligent, enthusiastic and competent, and Connecticut’s birds will be the beneficiaries.”