#20: Dr. Yiwei Wang – Bird Observatories, Plovers, and Pumas, Oh My!

#20: Dr. Yiwei Wang – Bird Observatories, Plovers, and Pumas, Oh My! Nature's Archive

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My guest in this episode is Dr. Yiwei Wang. 

Yiwei is the Executive Director at the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory, or SFBBO for short (find SFBBO on FB and Instagram). Yiwei grew up in the South Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area and has called the Bay area her home for most of her life. She attended Cornell University and double majored in Biology and Psychology. Returning to the west coast, she worked for a variety of organizations that focused on birds and mammals, including an internship with the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory and a season as a field technician in SFBBO’s Snowy Plover Program. ​She then attended UC Santa Cruz and received her PhD in Environmental Studies. Her dissertation focused on learning how human development impacts mountain lions and their relationships with other smaller carnivores. 

Dr. Yiwei Wang with a Puma Kitten

After completing her Ph.D., she worked in northern Kenya to coordinate research efforts among four NGOs to study regional human development and wildlife movement as part of a project supported by the Nature Conservancy and the Wildlife Conservation Network. Prior to her role at SFBBO, she was a post-doctoral scholar in Santa Barbara, where she worked to increase and facilitate the management and sharing of ecological data. 

In this episode we discuss the mission and projects of the SFBBO, and what it means to be a “bird observatory”. Yiwei reveals some of the inner workings of such an organization, including what it is like to run an environmental organization, SFBBO’s volunteer program, how they engage with science advisors, some new and future projects, and a deep dive into the bird banding operation. 

Since we jump into the topic of bird banding, a little background. Bird banding is the process of collecting detailed scientific measurements of individual birds by temporarily capturing birds using nearly invisible mist nets. These measurements are used to create datasets that track bird populations, morphologies, migration patterns, and more. Additionally, a small band is added to the leg of the bird to facilitate future tracking. Doing this in a way that is safe for the birds and scientifically rigorous is a fascinating subject, and requires thorough training.

We also discuss Yiwei’s and SFBBO’s commitment to diversity, inclusivity, and equity, and how they are embodying it.

Additionally, we get to hear about some of Yiwei’s other interesting projects, including her PhD project documenting the energetics of mountain lions around human habitation, and her eye opening experiences in Australia that redirected her career path to the one she is on today.

You can find Yiwei on Twitter.

And note that SFBBO will be celebrating their 40th anniversary later this year (2021). They have celebrations and promotions planned, so be sure to follow them on FB and Instagram!

Links To Topics Discussed

People and Organizations

Center for Excellence in Nonprofits – they offer Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity trainings.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Marshmallow Minds – a Non Profit that focuses on designed-based thinking curriculum for elementary schools. SFBBO is partnering to create bird-centric content.

National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to SFBBO, Stanford University, San Jose State University, Santa Clara University, and West Valley College to create a research coordination network include Coyote Creek Field Station and Jasper Ridge Field Station.

Santa Cruz Puma Project – project Yiwei participated in for her Ph.D. She used GPS and accelerometer collars to learn about mountain lion behavior.

South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project

Books and Other Things

Birdy Hour Talks – SFBBO series on various bird topics.

Invisible Women – Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez – Yiwei recommends this book to give perspective about ways society inherently biases against women.

Salt Marsh Harvest Mice

Ridgway’s Rail

Snowy Plover

Note: links to books are affiliate links

Music Credits

Opening – Fearless First by Kevin MacLoed

Closing – Beauty Flow by Kevin MacLoed

Both can be obtained from https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/

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