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April 21, 2003
John Bluck
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Phone: 650/604-5026 or 604-9000


You are invited to cover Earth Day 2003 events, including a bird hike photo opportunity, a talk about ecosystems of the south San Francisco Bay and a street fair at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., from Tuesday, April 22 through Wednesday, April 23. To reach Ames, take the Moffett Field exit from Highway 101, drive east to the main gate and the visitor badging office to obtain a map and directions to the events. U.S. media representatives must have valid picture ID in order to enter Ames. Please arrive about 20 minutes early due to security measures.


Bird-watching hikes near south San Francisco Bay, a street fair and a talk about historical ecosystems of the south bay are activities in which employees can take part to celebrate Earth Day April 22 through April 23 at NASA Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley.

Some of the 81 acres recently set aside as a burrowing owl habitat will be viewed during the bird hikes. The burrowing owl work at Ames is an example of the NASA center’s environmental efforts. Because of this effort and other related practices at Ames, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently selected Ames to join the EPA’s National Environmental Performance Track program, whose members are committed to continuous environmental improvements.

“The 81 acres represent an amazing achievement to benefit the owls,” said NASA Ames’ wildlife biologist Chris Alderete. “The places where we put owls are dual purpose. Owls can co-exist with us for the most part,” Alderete said. He will lead two bird hikes on April 22 that are slated to start from the soccer field next to Bldg. N245, from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. PDT and from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. PDT.

On April 22, a street fair featuring environmentally related booths will take place on Ames’ Durand Road from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. PDT. In addition, nine computer-based displays will be in the nearby Ames cafeteria during the street fair. An environmental scientist, Joshua Collins of the San Francisco Estuary Institute, Richmond, Calif., will speak about the “Historical Ecosystems of South San Francisco Bay,” on April 23 from noon until 1:30 p.m. PDT in the Bldg. N245 auditorium.

“Some of the 81 acres dedicated to the burrowing owls will be enhanced to make the area more owl-friendly,” Alderete said. “We are drawing the owls away from the runway by enhancing areas on the outside edges of the airfield,” he explained. Recently, high school students from Irvington High School, Fremont, Calif., helped NASA Ames workers install artificial owl burrows. As part of the ‘Change Project’ at Irvington, freshman students formed groups of four to apply what they are learning in school to create and perform projects that cause a positive change in the community.

NASA Ames workers used 500 yards of dirt from another project at the airfield to build a small berm, or ridge. “There’s where we put artificial burrows for the owls,” explained Alderete. “They are made of 12-inch by 17-inch irrigation boxes buried a few feet down and connected to the surface by four-inch corrugated flex pipe,” he said.

The California Department of Fish and Game lists the burrowing owl as a California species of special concern. To help safeguard the owls, Ames also is taking other steps. “The most important thing is to keep grass short because owls like to have a view to see predators coming,” Alderete said. “We may use some of our goats to eat down grass in the area because it is less expensive than traditional mowing,” he added.

The number of owls at Ames varies year to year, but typically there are 15 to 25 pairs in the breeding season that runs from Feb. 1 to Sept. 30. The small birds normally live in ground squirrel burrows and have long legs, buff white breasts and lemon-yellow eyes.

Images of Irvington High School students installing artificial owl burrows are on the Internet at:



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