By day, Penn Yan resident Carol Sackett manages the circulation desk at Lightner Library, a post she has held for 32 years. But through March 7, visitors to Keuka College can glimpse a different side of her, as seen in three oil paintings gracing the walls of Lightner Gallery.
Sackett’s paintings are on display alongside numerous other works from members of Keuka’s faculty and staff, whose job titles may not necessarily disclose the individuals as creative “artists-in-residence.”
Beyond 9 to 5: The Hidden Talents of Keuka’s Faculty and Staff runs through March 7 in Lightner Gallery,located in Lightner Library. It features a range of artistic mediums, including painting, photography, ceramics, glass work, digital art, and film. More than 20 faculty and staff members submitted work for the show, including President Jorge L. Díaz-Herrera.
During a special artists’ reception – open to the public – Thursday, Feb. 21 from 4:30 – 6 p.m., the exhibit will also feature select culinary art from four members of the faculty and staff. The exhibit remains open daily during library hours, available online at: http://lightner.keuka.edu
Like most expectant parents or relatives, the wait for “D-day,” the day of delivery, is a torturous enterprise. But once the little one is safely arrived and nestled down for naps and feedings, the crowing begins.
So it is for the students in Keuka’s ornithology class and Assistant Professor of Biology and Environmental Science, Bill Brown, who have been keeping close watch on several nestboxes Brown placed along the outer perimeter of the campus, near the treeline beyond Davis Hall and the Red Barn Theatre. The nestboxes, which look like simple birdhouses to the untrained eye, are large enough for birds that prefer to live in cavities such as tree trunks to build a nest inside.
It has been a long wait, marred when eight of nine “active” nests of Eastern bluebirds and Black-capped chickadees were destroyed by house wrens and house sparrows, whose habit is to kick out any eggs already laid in a nest in order to take it over and lay eggs of their own. But one chickadee nest escaped the ravages of the migratory menaces, and that nestbox is the ultimate destination for Brown’s class on this, the final day of the outdoor lab for ENV/BIO 331.
Before paying a visit to the home of the new nestlings, the scientific term for baby birds recently hatched, the class stops at one additional box, where a house wren has begun to lay new eggs – three so far – after returning to the area in the last week or so.
Carefully unscrewing one side of the box, Brown reveals the wren’s nest, made primarily of twigs, with soft grasses, bluejay feathers and hair lining the inside. Fishing around with his hand, he pulls out three tiny pink-toned eggs.
Bundled warm in hoodies against the morning chill at Keuka Lake State Park, the students are standing still, listening intently. From the branches of trees nearby come chirps, calls and sing-song melodies, rising over the sound of the waves lapping the shore.
“What do you hear?” asks Bill Brown, assistant professor of biology and environmental science, who holds a Ph.D. and specializes in ornithology, the study of birds. Binoculars hang suspended from the students’ necks, but Brown wants them to listen first.
Pencils poised over palm-size waterproof notepads, the handful of students lower their heads and jot down four-letter codes for different species as they respond with the names: Mourning dove. American robin. Cardinal. Canada goose. Carolina wren. Downy woodpecker. [Eastern] Pheobe. House finch.
This is ENV/BIO 331, Keuka’s ornithology class, where one of Brown’s primary objectives is teaching students to master identification of some 104 different species of birds by sight. Thirty-nine of those species must also be identified by sound. And those are just the birds found here in New York state.
According to Brown, almost 90 percent of “birding” is done by ear; the rest comes from knowing what to expect in a given setting, whether that may be a small cluster of trees near a building, along a road, or deep in a forest fragment. (more…)
Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of profiles on new, full-time faculty members.
Bill Brown is eager for spring semester and the opportunity to get his biology and ecology students outdoors, to look for salamanders under rocks, go bird-watching, and collect scores of data on “critters” in the wild.
“We’ll get outside every day possible,” said Brown, who specializes in ornithology (birds), but also has training in entomology (insects), general ecology (the environment), bio-statistics and applied statistics. A visiting professor last year, the Penn Yan resident joined the Keuka faculty full-time this year, taking over several environmental courses formerly taught by Tim Sellers, who became an associate vice-president for academic programs last year.
As an undergraduate at Cornell University, Brown worked at the Finger Lakes National Forest identifying birds. Later, he worked as a field tech studying birds literally across the country, before completing master’s and doctoral work on the wood thrush, a migratory forest songbird, at the University of Delaware.
“We put bands on them, tracked who they mated with, what tree species they nested in, how high, etc. It piqued my interest in statistics,” he said.
As such, Brown is eager to offer an ornithology course, which he will teach this coming spring. While students are snowbound indoors, he’ll get them up to speed on taxonomy, the relationships of bird groups, their biology and ecology, and by the time the snow melts, students can get outside to put that knowledge to work.