Sparta student wins prestigious award

Research spanned three years


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  • Ian Garrison is pictured to the right with other award recipients. Photo by AMNH/R. Mickens



— A Sparta student was recently recognized for an essay he wrote on the bird species at the 17th annual Young Naturalist Awards program in New York City.

Ian's project

Occupancy Modeling of Bird Species in a Sub-Alpine Lake Ecosystem
An avid birder, Ian conducted bird count inventories at Ryker Lake, a sub-alpine lake in Northern New Jersey. Over the years he began to notice the impact human development had on the spatial and temporal diversity of bird species. While his data were valuable, Ian realized they were incomplete as he couldn’t identify all the birds all the time. He implemented a probability-based method called occupancy modeling in order to better understand the population dynamics of bird species, specifically flycatchers, warblers, and swallows.
His research, which spanned three years, showed that the occupancy modeling was more accurate at establishing and monitoring bird species than bird count surveys.
“This analysis should provide good information on local bird populations and their dynamics, which will be helpful in guiding future conservation efforts. My focus in this paper is to compare the occupancy data for the three largest insectivorous passerine groups: flycatchers (Tyrannidae), warblers (Parulidae), and swallows (Hirundidae)," Ian is quoted as saying.

Ian Garrison, 17, a homeschooled student, was awarded at the event.

The Young Naturalist Awards is a program of the National Center for Science Literacy, Education, and Technology (NCSLET), part of the Museum’s Department of Education. Founded in 1997, NCSLET taps the museum’s scientific resources, a vast physical collection, cutting-edge research, and dynamic and engaging exhibitions, and makes them available to a global audience.

The Young Naturalist Awards program was developed by the museum to promote young people’s active participation in the sciences and to recognize excellence in biology, ecology, earth science, and astronomy.

“The winners of the Young Naturalist Awards demonstrate a true passion for science research and communication,” said Rosamond Kinzler, senior director for science education and director of NCSLET. “Whether these young people studied the water quality of a local river in Florida or investigated the effects of climate change on tropical butterflies in Guyana, their essays reveal the same dedication to the practice of science as our Museum scientists. The Museum is committed to inspiring and supporting young people like this year’s winners in their quest to use the scientific process to learn more about the world around them.”

The awards ceremony featured remarks by Dr. Kinzler and Christopher Raxworthy, associate curator in the Department of Herpetology and associate dean of science for education and exhibitions. Raxworthy spoke to the 13 young winners about his own journey to become a scientist and about the parallels between their fieldwork and original research conducted at the Museum.

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