2019-02-07 / Front Page

Donation of owl sustains UNE program

By Molly Lovell-Keely
Managing Editor


Left, Professor Noah Perlut of the University of New England handles an owl that was donated to the school’s Department of Environmental Studies. Above, birds large and small – like this hummingbird – are preserved through a lesser known program at UNE that teaches students how to preserve specimens. The department accepts specimen donations from area wildlife organizations and the public. (Molly Lovell-Keely photos) Left, Professor Noah Perlut of the University of New England handles an owl that was donated to the school’s Department of Environmental Studies. Above, birds large and small – like this hummingbird – are preserved through a lesser known program at UNE that teaches students how to preserve specimens. The department accepts specimen donations from area wildlife organizations and the public. (Molly Lovell-Keely photos) BIDDEFORD – A barred owl that flew into a car on Pool Road and died has found eternal life just down the road at the University of New England.

Neighbors collected the bird and through the grapevine, heard that Associate Professor Noah Perlut, ornithologist and chairman of the school’s Department of Environmental Studies, may have use for it.

“It’s a little project that will hopefully have some real payback to students and the scientific community,” said Perlut, a Scarborough resident.

UNE offers wildlife-based courses, a bird banding station every fall and a project to control mosquitoes using birds, bats, and plants. As part of these various programs, every once in a while Perlut would find himself in possession of expired birds. Through a grant, a museum cabinet was secured and in the academic year 2016- 2017, his department began offering a one-credit class on specimen preservation.

The purpose of the course, which is three hours a week, is threefold.

“To (create) a museum collection that’s available for the public to use and for us for teaching . . . to learn anatomy and physiology . . . and to train students in a distinct skill,” Perlut said, adding that the skill is a viable one for those who want to work in museum education.

“It’s also a great way to make a connection with the community,” he added.


Above, Emma White, a masters student in biology, will teach the next class that teaches participants how to preserve bird specimens. Right, specimens are stored in a cabinet that was secured by a grant awarded to UNE. (Molly Lovell-Keely photos) Above, Emma White, a masters student in biology, will teach the next class that teaches participants how to preserve bird specimens. Right, specimens are stored in a cabinet that was secured by a grant awarded to UNE. (Molly Lovell-Keely photos) The Pool Street neighbor who donated the owl ended up touring Perlut’s department, viewed the specimen collection and was given a sneak peek into a bigger project Perlut and his students are working on.

What exactly will become of some the specimens Perlut has acquired?

Cats and building strikes are the top two killers of 3 to 5 billion birds every year and when the Danielle N. Ripich Commons was proposed to include large windows facing the Saco River, Perlut’s students collectively gasped at the idea.

“Students wrote a petition and got over 1,000 signatures to encourage the university to install glass that contains webbing that birds can detect,” Perlut said. “It took a lot of courage. It was presented to former President Ripich and it was an added expense, but it was important to the students and they were successful.”


Professor Noah Perlut, and student Emma White, explained that to preserve birds, any parts that would rot need to be removed. Cotton must then be inserted into the specimens. (Molly Lovell-Keely photo) Professor Noah Perlut, and student Emma White, explained that to preserve birds, any parts that would rot need to be removed. Cotton must then be inserted into the specimens. (Molly Lovell-Keely photo) Perlut and students are finishing a design for a display in the commons that will educate visitors about bird-friendly glass that will include some of the department’s specimens – particularly, birds that died from window strikes.

UNE isn’t a school of ornithology, but Perlut hopes all the education students receive there encourages them to make wise choices in any path they choose.

“I like to think we’re training them to be good global students,” he said. “We want to have thoughtful graduates who understand the world.”


Return to top