In 2016, the Guerrieri Academic Commons opened to replace Blackwell Hall as the main library on campus. Compared to Blackwell Hall, the GAC is a testament to the university’s step into the 21st century.
The GAC stands four stories high, with an electronic bell tower and floor-to-ceiling windows that let in plenty of natural light. With its modern facilities, natural color scheme and a coffee shop that passes out paper straws, the GAC seems to be an environmentally conscious building.
However, Dr. Jeremy Corfield, an associate professor of biological sciences here at Salisbury University, is quick to point out one major flaw.
“I have students who bring me dead robins they’ve found outside the library all the time, and they ask me what to do,” Corfield said. “Salisbury is in a migratory path; we need to do something about the birds colliding into windows.”
Hailing from New Zealand, where most bird species are endangered, Corfield has spent as long as he can remember studying birds.
“I just want the students to realize that birds are awesome,” Corfield said. “One in four birds are gone off the planet, and it’s not getting any better.”
“Salisbury is big into sustainability,” he added, “but I’ve noticed that no one is helping the birds.”
Corfield explained that between habitat loss, toxins in the environment, windmills and now windows, birds are facing extreme conditions. That’s why he’s decided to start a bird-safe campus initiative.
The initiative involves educating the campus community on birds and bird-safe living, as well as creating bird boxes and feeders, planting bird-friendly plants and making campus windows visually opaque, to name a few.
Earlier this week, Corfield sent out a campus-wide email hoping to raise student interest.
“I’m really looking for students from all academic disciplines, not just biology majors. I want to pull all the strings from across campus,” Corfield said.
It was this welcoming and accepting attitude that drew in SU sophomore Jessica Sharp.
Sharp felt that Corfield's approach was not only clever but intriguing because in reaching out to the entire campus community, it gives other students like herself the chance to meet more students outside of one's own major.
"What caught my eye was the fact that it was an open invitation to the whole campus instead of just a small part," Sharp said. "I am pushing for more interactions with all peers, instead of just close-knit friends."
Corfield felt it was important to make this project inclusive to all types of people as a means of gaining multiple perspectives on various issues.
“I want art students to paint and design the bird boxes, I want education majors to help make infographics and I want computer science majors to help make interactive apps and place little cameras in the bird boxes,” Corfield said.
SU junior Caroline Graf is one student who has reached out to Corfield and showed an interest in helping making SU's campus more bird-friendly.
Recently, Graf has become more inclined in bird life in general. For in her entrepreneurial endeavors, Graf has started to expand her wood burning business "Grilled Trees," and is doing a lot of new pieces centering around various species of birds.
"I've always been intrigued and had an interest in birds," Graf said. "And just recently, I've stared to get more requests for bird-themed wood burnings, so when I saw Dr. Corfield's email, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to learn more about them."
Even if students are too busy this semester to dedicate their time to the project, they can find ways to help the birds in their everyday lives. Putting holiday window clings or sticky notes on your dorm windows warns birds not to try to fly through them, and placing bird feeders outside your apartments helps to keep Salisbury birds fed during the cold winter months.
At the moment, Corfield doesn’t have a complete schedule for the initiative yet, but he is hoping that once he gets enough student interest, he can apply for the campus green fund to help get the project off the ground.
“I want this to be a student-led project. That’s when things are really going to happen,” Corfield said.
For those students interested in participating in Corfield’s bird-safe campus initiative, please email him at JRcorfield@salisbury.edu, or drop by his office, Henson Hall Room 216.
By GILLIAN VAN DITTA
Featured photo by Caroline Graf.