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Leap into fun with Webster Co. Conservation

Friends of Conservation offers trivia night to support new bird tracking tower

-Messenger file photo
Webster County conservation is holding a fundraiser Thursday for a Motus bird tracking tower that is planned for the new River's Edge Discovery Center.

Leap Day will be an opportunity for Webster County Conservation to leap into a little fun, all while raising funds for a special project at the new River’s Edge Discovery Center. Area residents are invited to bone up on winter trivia, Leap Day facts, perhaps take a hint from the theme for the night, “It’s for the Birds,” and come for a night of learning and fun at River Hops Brewery.

The trivia night is sponsored in cooperation with the Webster County Friends of Conservation, according to Brody Bertram, trails and park technician for the department. Proceeds from the evening will help support construction of a Motus bird tracking tower planned at the Discovery Center.

The evening will get underway with happy hour beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Leap Day, Thursday, at River Hops, 1014 Central Ave. Trivia will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Information on signing up is available at Webster County Conservation’s Facebook page or by calling Conservation.

“The Friends of Conservation is a nonprofit group that really helps us out a lot,” Bertram said. The group has been key in providing funds to help programming, special events, and the new River’s Edge Discovery Center.

“The Center is going to be a hub for our environmental education program and give people yet another way to come and experience nature, both inside the center and outside,” Bertram said.

While the exterior of the building is complete, work is still underway inside, including exhibits, natural displays and more.

“We’re hoping for a grand opening in late summer or early fall,” Bertram noted.

Located near the Des Moines River in Fort Dodge, the center is all based around water. But the river is much more than just a flowing body of water. It’s an ecosystem, a critical natural resource, not only to wildlife that make their home in Webster County, but also to thousands of migratory birds that just pass through, hence the motivation for the new Motus tracking tower to be featured at the trivia night.

Bertram is pleased to welcome Anna Buckardt-Thomas, a biologist and avian ecologist for the Iowa DNR, as special guest for the evening. There will be six rounds of trivia, including time for Buckardt-Thomas to speak briefly on the Motus tower and how it can help scientists learn about migrating populations of wildlife.

“I learned about Motus about a year ago,” Bertram said. “It’s a wildlife tracking system and it’s all based off radio telemetry.”

Such tracking systems for wildlife have been used to track a variety of wildlife for many years. Motus is actually an international tracking effort that was started by Birds Canada. It allows researchers, literally across the globe, to simultaneously track huge numbers of birds, bats, and even insects. There are Motus receivers in 34 countries with more than 350 species tagged to date, and the program continues to grow.

Bertram is pleased that the Friends of Conservation group is actively supporting the local Motus project through the Leap Day trivia night.

“This will tell us how far a bird goes in a day, where it went in the summer, where it goes in the winter, as long as there is a tower nearby, it will get pinged,” he explained. “This helps us understand more of the intricacies of nature.”

The Des Moines River is an important resource to migrating waterfowl, and the Motus tower will help collect data on how and when the river is being utilized by these avian guests of the river.

“We’ll understand more why they are traveling through our state, what Iowa is offering to those birds,” Bertram said. “It’s just all sorts of amazing statistics that Motus will gather.”

Already, 16 individuals have signed up for the trivia night, and more are always welcome. Folks are invited to compete individually or as teams. It’s a casual night of fun competition, focused on learning and supporting conservation efforts, according to Bertram.

There will be a great variety of prizes, courtesy of a number of local businesses. Among the prizes will be a pizza and also a pretzel appetizer provided by River Hops Brewing. Bertram issued his thanks to River Hops and all the sponsors who help make the night a success.

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