Oak Hill Academy Students Participate in a Rutgers University Research Project on Barn Swallows
Our young scientists here at Oak Hill Academy are extremely excited to be a part of a real scientific research project! Scientists from Rutgers University have commenced a study on a fascinating little bird, the barn swallow (Hirundo rustica). These birds annually build their labor-intensive mud nests in specific areas resembling barns here on our bucolic 20-acre campus. This project is being conducted by Ms. Erin McHale, a Ph.D. candidate in the laboratory of Dr. Brooke Maslo, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources Department at Rutgers University. Dr. Maslo is a current Oak Hill Academy parent. Our students decorated over 50 barn swallow nesting platforms which were installed all over our campus. The scientists in Dr. Maslo’s lab educated our students on this amazing little insectivorous bird. Students learned about their morphology and phenology including their mind-boggling ability to migrate thousands of miles from hemisphere to hemisphere and then build mud nests that require thousands of trips to a mud field over the course of 2 weeks! Dr. Maslo’s graduate students educated our young scientists on the importance of this research project as these animals contribute to the health and well-being of our environment, including local ecosystems. Mrs. Cahalane, Lower School science teacher, created additional related lesson plans and activities for all students in grades PK-4. Our students learned about wildlife conservation, management and were taught that every species living here on Earth is important to the health and maintenance of a thriving, species-diverse environment. Barn swallows are non-invasive and are helpful insectivores, consuming pests such as mosquitoes, wasps, and possibly even the invasive spotted lanternfly (to be determined via DNA analysis studies). This is a wonderful opportunity for our young scientists. Not only do our students have the rare opportunity to meet and interact with real scientists, they are also able to see how a scientific field study research project is conducted. We are so excited for the arrival of the barn swallows here on campus and are enthusiastically looking forward to hearing about the data collection and genetic analysis performed by the Rutgers scientists!
~Mrs. Sue Cahalane, Lower School Science Teacher