Wednesday, August 23, 2017

My Time to Fly

It is with mixed emotions that I announce my retirement from state service, on Sept 1.  While I have done many interesting and fulfilling things throughout my career, the peregrine project remains at the top of my list for the most impact.  I'm definitely honored to have had a role in the conservation of such a powerful and magnificent species…but equally powerful and magnificent has been the impact this project has had on so many people over the years, all over the world.  I am humbled to have increased the awareness of, informed, and educated people of all ages not only in Ohio, but also from many, many locations all over the world.

My beginnings were simple – in 1990, the Ohio Division of Wildlife was hacking peregrines in downtown Columbus as the first step in the Midwest population restoration efforts, and I was a wildlife management student at The Ohio State University.   I volunteered to be part of the “Peregrine Patrol” – the ground crew that kept an eye on the released falcons as they were taking their first flights.  Later, after I was hired full-time with the Division, I became the site manager for the Columbus nest.  From there, the cams were developed and even though I was the main person up front from the public’s perspective, there was always a team of folks making it happen.

As I look forward to the next chapter in my personal life, I admit that I do have reservation about no longer being part of the project, especially with the new and exciting challenges that face the team as the work at the Rhodes Tower commences.  But I have made my contributions and am confident that as I pass the baton, the team has a solid foundation to continue to have a positive impact on the species and all who follow them.

The Division of Wildlife team is quite varied beyond me, and includes my supervisors, project leaders and administrators, graphics, IT, webmasters, videographers, and photographers.  It includes wildlife area staff that construct nest boxes and do the heavy lifting of hauling the boxes and bags of pea gravel out onto rooftops and ledges.  It includes our telephone operators and communications staff and of course our wildlife officers and investigators.

As important as the Division of Wildlife’s team is in this project, I want to point out that the team of which I speak goes beyond us agency folks.  In my view, the team also includes the fans who watch via the Internet and/or out the window of their office in the Rhodes Tower or other downtown skyscrapers. Over the years, there has been a great geographical diversity of fans, most notably from Georgia, Buffalo NY, and Heidelberg, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, many locations in Canada, and even Australia-131 countries total! The team includes the people who watch from the sidewalk in downtown Columbus as they are waiting for their bus, or take the time to go downtown during fledge just to keep an eye out.  The team includes all of the building managers and maintenance workers who have allowed us to install nest boxes and cameras, who have run cables down elevator shafts so that our video could reach the world.  And the adjacent building managers and maintenance workers and downtown workers in general who may not have hosted a nest but still interact with the falcons from time to time. The team includes the media who have provided coverage of the peregrines and our project in newspapers, on TV, and beyond.  The team includes schools—both public and home—who have used the Columbus falcons to teach children about wildlife conservation and the blog as a tool to practice grammar and writing; the school administrators and teachers who were involved with our naming contests, each child who ever submitted a name and their parents, relatives, and neighbors who also learned about the falcons through the involvement of their children.  The team includes many wildlife rehabilitators in Ohio and Minnesota who have cared for injured falcons.  It includes falconers, Ohio Wildlife Council members, local business owners, the Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, many law enforcement agencies, and the Capitol Crossroads SID safety ambassadors.  It would be impossible to list all of the individuals I have had contact with over the years but I hope by reading this list you all know who you are and realize your importance.  Without each and every one of you, the Columbus Peregrine Project wouldn’t be what it is.  I have just had the fortunate distinction to be the figurehead in all of this.

With that I wish to thank each and every fan over the years no matter how far and wide or near you watched from and each and every other member of the entire team I described.  You all have made this project just as much of a rush for me as was crawling out on the ledge of the 41st floor of the Rhodes Tower with a screaming peregrine diving at my head.  But yeah, that was always pretty cool, too. 😎