ACUMEN Spring 2022

COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES 13 Be Present in Your Environment BERNADETTE SUKL EY Student research leads to a local ordinance encouraging bird habitat connections at Lehigh,” Mojica says. “The major takeaway from my research and work on the ordinance is that we, as humans, need to be more present in our environment—Lehigh University. “We’re so busy focusing on classes, on surviving. We forget about other people and the birds that are here in our space,” she says. “As students, we take up housing, and that affects the people living here. If we use the resources and are cognizant of our surroundings, we become involved in the environment—and that makes it a better community.” ● make good homes also, but since the 1970s, the population of chimney swifts has dropped by 72 percent. “In our area, people are part of the reason for declining numbers. People do things like cap chimneys or destroy nests,” Mojica says. “Swifts actually need tall buildings. After habitat destruction, they’ve adapted to our ways, our structures.” Chimneys fit the bill for the swifts’ natural home. Mojica is advocating for chimney towers, styled like kiosks, typically 12 feet tall and designed for nesting and small numbers of roosting birds. These freestanding towers satisfy the birds’ natural nesting habits and can keep them out of household chimneys. Mojica, together with undergraduate student Fabian Chavez, who is an earth and environmental science major, conducted research to examine the migratory pattern of the birds and help develop a Bethlehem city ordinance that would encourage the building of chimney towers locally. She points out that there is an environmental gain achieved by protecting chimney swift habitat. “Swifts eat invasive bugs— invasive bugs that eat native bugs. There is a natural pest-control balance. Now, nothing will be eating [invasive bugs], and that ecosystem collapses,” she says. Mojica’s research was guided by Breena Holland, associate professor of political science, and Karen Beck Pooley, professor of practice in political science and director of the environmental policy program. “I absolutely couldn’t have done this without the As a third-year English and political science major, Natalie Mojica didn’t envision getting involved with birds. “Although I’m planning an internship with a focus in law, I’m now trying to decide between environmental law and civil rights law,” she says. Mojica became smitten by chimney swifts, which are under duress by urban development. “They’re just so cute,” she says. About five inches long, the birds have smudge-gray coloring, bright, dark eyes and a happy chirping call. It’s easy to see why Mojica thinks they’re cute. “Chimney swifts are around us all the time,” she says. “In general, they are quiet birds.” Comparatively speaking, swifts are inconspicuous. “Not like pigeons,” Mojica says. “I’m from New York, and pigeons are a nuisance.” Swifts are migratory birds, commonly found across the eastern United States. They overwinter in the Amazon basin, then make their way north in late spring. They are accustomed to roosting and nesting in tall tree limbs, snags and caves. Chimneys Chimney swifts have made Bethlehem home. In February 2021, Bethlehem’s council named the chimney swift the official city bird. ANTHONY MERCIECA / SCIENCE SOURCE, ISTOCKPHOTO.COM