Black birders harness social media to push for field safety

Read the full story from WUNC.

Lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic motivated some people to pick up new hobbies, like baking or knitting. Lauren Pharr turned to bird blogging.

“[I was] in my house, just twiddling my thumbs,” Pharr said. “I was just kind of like, ‘Oh, let’s start a blog and start sharing all of my birding info’.”

Pharr is a PhD student and avian ecologist at North Carolina State University pursuing a degree in fisheries, wildlife and conservation biology. During lockdown, she started blogging about her research, which investigated the impacts of light and noise pollution on bird survival.

“There were a ton of people who would reach out to me to say, ‘Wow, I never knew how light pollution could impact birds,’ and wanting to know how to fix these environmental issues,” Pharr said. “That’s like the icing on the cake right there, because it lets me know you’re wanting to fix this problem. You’re wanting to be part of the solution.”

A year later, Pharr posts regularly on her Instagram and Twitter accounts about birding. She is an intern with the North Carolina Sea Grant and has written several blog posts for The Nature Conservancy’s Cool Green Science series.

But as a Black birder, science communication has grown to be about more than sharing research for Pharr. It’s also about visibility: letting her roughly 6,000 Twitter followers and 6,000 Instagram followers know about her experiences as a Black birder, and the ground that remains to be covered when it comes to keeping her safe in the field.

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