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Understanding and Restoring Nature - With Douglas Gill

A passion for conservation!

For more than a decade, Dr. Douglas Gill, an emeritus professor of biology at the University of Maryland, has helped restore native grasslands on a large farm near Chesapeake Bay. Invited to join the project by landowner Harry Sears, Dr. Gill says, “…My deeply internal love for outdoor nature, birds in particular, my professional, rigorous style of work, and conservation – they all came to together in one package… And it was irresistible, and how could I have been anything but wildly enthusiastic!” This Blue Grosbeak is just one of the many birds that benefited from the Chester River Restoration Project.
(For a list of some of the many partners in the project, please see the bottom of the transcript.)

Full Transcript



Dedicated to Understanding and Restoring Nature
Interview with Douglas Gill

Written by Todd Peterson

This is BirdNote.
 [Song of Blue Grosbeak]
Why does a person dedicate his or her life’s work to understanding and caring for nature? For more than a decade, Dr. Douglas Gill, an emeritus professor of biology at the University of Maryland, has helped restore native grasslands on a large farm near Chesapeake Bay. It’s just his latest project to benefit birds and other wildlife.
[Song of Blue Grosbeak]
Let’s hear from Dr. Gill:
“In my childhood I was introduced to the beauties and wonders and magnificence of nature by my grandfather, but largely through the Audubon Society and several mentors.  The grassland project gave me an opportunity to continue hurling myself 100% into studying nature, loving it, understanding it, appreciating it just the way I have ever since childhood. Secondly, as a professional experimental ecologist, my devotion is to find answers of ‘how does nature work?’ and I do this through rigorous, controlled, replicated experiments.  And this opportunity was just enormously satisfying for exactly that reason. Thirdly, I’ve always been involved with and had a goal to have my work devoted to conservation, to preserve habitats for future generations to enjoy as much as I’ve enjoyed in my lifetime.”

[Song of Blue Grosbeak]

Find photos of the project and the birds that are benefiting, [e.g. Orchard Oriole, Common Yellowthroat. Indigo Bunting] on our website,

Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Song of Blue Grosbeak 107400 recorded by W.L. Hershberger; song of Orchard Oriole 40765 recorded by G.F. Budney.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2012 Tune In to   June 2012   Narrator: Michael Stein

ID#       gilld-02-2012-06-13

Resources provided by Dr. Douglas Gill:

*      The Chester River Field Research Center / CRFRC website should be a first tour stop.  The first fork in the website takes you to either CRFRC or the Foreman Branch Bird Observatory. The website has reports and charts of data, as well as stunning photos.
*      For the extraordinary vision of the property owner and his assessment of the current challenges and future prospects of CRFRC, learn more about Dr. Henry F. Sears,
*     The current head of administration of CRFRC is Dr. John Seidel, Director of the Center for the Environment and Society, at Washington College.  John is keenly interested in making the research at CRFRC fit into the larger geographic picture of land use on the Delmarva peninsula and water issues of the Chesapeake Bay and expanding programming in environmental education at Washington College.
*      For incomparable details of the day-to-day, on-the-ground observations of birds/wildlife, seasonal and annual changes, experimental results and updated data of CRFRC, we thank Dan Small and Maren Gimpel. Dan and Maren live on the CRFRC Grasslands, are the full-time field research team, and maintain the website (above).
*       For the essential vision and view of the operational interface between CRFRC, its management/  research / conservation side, and the excellent, modern precision, environmentally friendly  production farm (Bluestem Farms) in which CRFRC is  physically embedded,  thank you to the omniscient Farm Manager Mr. Evan Miles.
*      For sound recordings and the real  “bird notes” of CRFRC Grasslands, and specifically recordings/information about the songs of Grasshopper Sparrows, thank you, Dr. Bernie Lohr. 

Related field notes: