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Sylvan Heights Bird Park, ECU announce collaboration

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Sylvan Heights Bird Park Board of Directors Chairman Don Butler, Sylvan Heights Executive Director Mike Lubbock and East Carolina University Vice Chancellor for Research, Economic Development and Engagement Jay Golden, from left, celebrate after signing a collaboration agreement between Sylvan Heights and ECU.

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The Daily Reflector

Saturday, September 8, 2018

East Carolina University’s latest collaboration is strictly for the birds. 

Sylvan Heights Bird Park and ECU officials have approved a formal collaboration to boost research and preserve endangered waterfowl.

The deal allows ECU to create a research facility — ECU at Sylvan Heights — at the bird park in Scotland Neck.

The facility will help foster joint endeavors between the park and the academic community by advancing community-based conservation of waterfowl and wetlands, both domestically and abroad, according to officials.

It also will provide practical, hands-on learning opportunities for ECU students across majors and disciplines, helping to develop aviculturists, biologists, educators, researchers and scientists, and further scientific research and discovery at a facility that houses more than 2,000 waterfowl, toucans, flamingos and other exotic birds from around the world.

Officials said the collaboration allows both parties to support their organizational missions through developing, promoting and implementing mutually beneficial projects and activities.

The effort will focus on preserving endangered species and conserving their habitats in addition to projects focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education and related work.

Sylvan Heights and ECU will use their alliance to combat global challenges and encourage interdisciplinary research, officials said.

“The announcement of this collaborative working relationship between ECU and Sylvan Heights is a very important and exciting development,” said Don Butler, chairman of the board of directors at Sylvan Heights Bird Park. “This agreement will be mutually beneficial to ECU and Sylvan Heights and will provide unique opportunities to engage and prepare the next generation of avian conservationists to help save the waterfowl of the world.”

In the past, ECU and Sylvan Heights teamed up to advance scientific discovery through a number of projects, including National Science Foundation-funded research conducted at the park. The pair also have collaborated to provide student internships, offer a lecture series by ECU graduate students, host Earth Day events and introduce Pitt County students to the bird park through ECU’s Biodiversity Initiative.

“This is an exciting opportunity to catapult ECU into a space rarely occupied by academic institutions,” said Jay Golden, vice chancellor for research, economic development and engagement at ECU. “No other program across the country has a formal collaboration such as this.

“We see opportunities for student projects and faculty research that extend into all facets of our university, including science, engineering, computing, business, social science and the humanities,” Golden said. “Sylvan Heights provides the university with a rich set of opportunities to explore.”

Sylvan Heights Bird Park’s mission of educating the next generation of waterfowl conservationists will continue at ECU this October with the 2018 Waterfowl Conservation Workshop. The event is designed to foster collaboration between conservationists, biologists and aviculturists specializing in wild waterfowl.

Sylvan Heights and ECU also will explore the potential for student assistantships and research projects focusing on wetland restoration, renewable energy and the conservation of endangered international waterfowl.

For more information on Sylvan Heights Bird Park, visit http://shwpark.com/. For more information on ECU, visit http://www.ecu.edu/.

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