BIDDEFORD — A barred owl that died after flying into a car on Pool Road is passing on some wisdom just down the road at the University of New England.

Neighbors collected the bird and through the grapevine, heard that Associate Professor Noah Perlut, ornithologist and chairman of the school’s environmental studies department, might have use for it.

“It’s a little project that will hopefully have some real payback to students and the scientific community,” said Perlut, a Scarborough resident.

UNE offers wildlife-based courses, a bird banding station every fall and a project to control mosquitoes using birds, bats and plants. As part of these various programs, every once in a while Perlut finds himself in possession of dead birds. Through a grant, a museum cabinet was secured and his department began offering a one-credit class on specimen preservation in the 2016-2017 academic year.

The purpose of the course, which is three hours a week, is three fold.

“To (create) a museum collection that’s available for the public to use and for us for teaching … to learn anatomy and physiology … and to train students in a distinct skill,” Perlut said, adding that the skill is a viable one for those who want to work in museum education.

“It’s also a great way to make a connection with the community,” he added.

The Pool Street neighbor who donated the owl ended up touring Perlut’s department, viewed the specimen collection and was given a sneak peek into a bigger project Perlut and his students are working on.

What exactly will become of some of the specimens Perlut has acquired?

Cats and building strikes are the top two killers of 3 billion to 5 billion birds every year, so when the proposed design for the Danielle N. Ripich Commons included large windows facing the Saco River, Perlut’s students collectively gasped.

“Students wrote a petition and got over 1,000 signatures to encourage the university to install glass that contains webbing that birds can detect,” Perlut said. “It took a lot of courage. It was presented to former President Ripich and it was an added expense, but it was important to the students and they were successful.”

Perlut and students are finishing a design for a display in the commons that will educate visitors about bird-friendly glass that will include some of the department’s specimens – particularly birds that died from window strikes.

UNE isn’t a school of ornithology, but Perlut hopes all the education students receive there encourages them to make wise choices in any path they choose.

“I like to think we’re training them to be good global students,” he said. “We want to have thoughtful graduates who understand the world.”


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