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Davis, California

Friday, March 1, 2024

UC Davis design students to put up birdhouses for nesting birds

Professor Ann Savageau’s sustainable design students created birdhouses with environmentally sustainable designs and will have their work installed on light posts along Lake Spafford in the UC Davis Arboretum, and in posts on the Quad on Dec 7. The birdhouses will stay up from Dec. 7 until Jan. 6.

“[The birdhouses are] designed to show that people can construct projects to restore the habitat and to inspire people [to explore] the possibilities of design,” Savagea said. “We think this project may be a model for future projects and we hope to install permanent birdhouses.”

The projects will provide a home to four different nesting birds: the Ash-throated Flycatcher, the Western Bluebird, the Tree Swallow and the House Wren. Not only will the houses provide a place for birds to nest, they will also feature aspects of green design.

Elaine Fingerett, the Arboretum’s academic coordinator, developed the idea and invited Savageau to instigate the project.

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have students design birdhouses with sustainable features and install them in the Arboretum?’” Fingerett said.

Fingerett works with UC Davis faculty and students to create outreach programs that show the public the work that UC Davis has done. She has also been working with Professor Robin Hill’s Site Specific Public Sculpture class to create temporary art installations in the arboretum starting on Dec. 7.

The students’ designs feature varied green or sustainable elements. One birdhouse has shingles made of soda can tabs. The use of recycled or repurposed materials is another route the students took to add sustainable features to “save energy and help the environment.”

The design project required that students fashion their models after a specific architect or architectural style, in addition to featuring sustainable green elements.

“The first things I imagined were miniature green roofs and small solar panel arrays on colorful, alternative, artful bird houses,” Fingerett said.

She described the projects as “wonderful, imaginative, and inventive,” while Savageau said that the designs were “incredibly clever.”

In addition to working with the arboretum, Savageau also worked with Zachary McDonald, the bird team leader of Wild Campus, a student organization that promotes projects to restore wildlife habitat in UC Davis.

McDonald helped students complete the project by providing blueprints for the general layout of the birdhouses and by answering their questions on constructing the birdhouses to accommodate the birds’ needs.

McDonald explained that the birdhouses will help the diverse array of bird species around the campus and “will function as typical birdhouses once the birds start migrating back to campus, but will primarily serve as a display for the community until then.”

McDonald characterized the event as a combined effort to provide homes for local nesting birds.

“[This is] a joint effort by Wild Campus, a student-run organization through UC Davis, and Ann’s design class to promote sustainability, as well as an effort to increase community involvement and awareness with wildlife,” he said.



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