Heidi Ware, Intermountain Bird Observatory

Heidi Ware is the Education and Outreach director for the Intermountain Bird Observatory, located on the campus of Boise State University. A trained ornithologist, she visited Gorongosa National Park in 2014 and plans on doing further research in the park. These comments were from an interview conducted in Africa and Boise, Idaho, in 2014 and 2015.

Flying in a helicopter over Gorongosa with Steve Burns

Flying in a helicopter over Gorongosa with Steve Burns

“I do a lot of research on migration of birds in Idaho and also breeding birds, and I’m starting to work with schools to coordinate our outreach efforts to make sure that students see the science that we’re doing. And I think it’s really important, because when I was a kid I didn’t really realize that scientists were like real life people, and so that’s the part that I love about my job, introducing kids to science and seeing that you really can grow up and be a scientist.”

“I met Greg Carr through his niece. He wanted her to meet a female biologist role model. And so I spent most of my time talking to his niece; but I guess I made an impression on Greg, because he emailed me in July and said, ‘Hey, what are you doing in early August? Do you want to go to Gorongosa?’ He’s really excited about the idea of doing education work with IBO, and I think that’s really fun.”

Saddle billed stork, one of my favorite birds of the tripHeidi Ware

Saddle billed stork, one of my favorite birds of the trip.

“Boise State’s the only university to offer a Master’s Degree in raptor biology, and so we’re located in this place that has the highest documented breeding density of raptors in the world; a we have this conglomeration of all these bird people that have come together in Boise, which makes working with birds really great, because there’s so much collaboration opportunity.”

“Based on some talking with birdwatchers down there, they think Gorongosa may be the most diverse place for birds in the continent. And when I was there, I was a little overwhelmed. Here in Idaho when I hear a bird call, I know what bird it is. And there I was hearing 20 different bird calls, and I was like, ah, what are all these things? I have no idea. And there’s huge storks just walking right next to your vehicle and birds you can’t even imagine in Idaho.”

Heidi Ware in Gorongosa

Heidi Ware in Gorongosa

“Gorongosa has a big research station there, but because birds are sort of easy to study, they’ve sort of been not studied there. When I was there, we added a couple new species to the park list that we didn’t know occurred in the park, and I was only there for two weeks and am not an expert on African birds. So, I think going back and learning more and more about the birds that are there is only going to benefit Gorongosa.”

“Something I think is really interesting is seeing a niche that would be filled in Boise by, say a hummingbird, here is filled by sunbirds. And so seeing the similarities between the species in how they’re adapted to fill the same role, but they’ve come at it from two completely different directions, I think it’s awesome to see.”

Heidi Ware sits on the ground with young boys and lets them look through her binoculars in Gorongosa.Katherine Jones

Heidi Ware lets young children look through her binoculars in Gorongosa.

“We got in this helicopter and went up and got to see the huge expansive Gorongosa, and I didn’t realize, you know, it’s almost a million acres. It’s gigantic. And so flying over these herds of animals, watching all the waterbucks scatter as the helicopter went over and getting to see hippos and crocodiles together and just comprehending how gigantic these crocodiles were, I mean, it was amazing. In the flight that we took, we got to see a lion actually attack and kill a little antelope called an oribi, and so watching that as a biologist, I was like: Oh, my gosh! Like, predator and prey, the circle of life! My cheeks were tired at the end of the helicopter ride because I was smiling the whole time I was flying around.”

“But I think a lot of what I’m going to tell folks back in Idaho is about the researchers here, and especially how they’re working with the local community and bringing these kids in. I mean, that’s what I’m most passionate about in Idaho. And I think other faculty at Boise State will probably be pretty excited about that, as well.”

Heidi Ware with Zoo Boise director Steve Burns in GorongosaKatherine Jones

Heidi Ware with Zoo Boise director Steve Burns in Gorongosa

“In the E. O. Wilson lab that’s stationed in Gorongosa, they have a bunch of kids, 16 and 17 years old, that are doing more amazing research than I’ve done. There was a fella talking to us about, you know, ‘I helped describe this new insect species that nobody’s ever discovered before.’ And the opportunities that Gorongosa is giving to those kids in those villages, it’s amazing. And to be a young biologist and see these other young biologists getting to do this, it’s amazing. I love it.”

“I think as far as the Intermountain Bird Observatory goes, our connection with Gorongosa is going to be oriented towards monitoring and research, but also education and outreach, so those are sort of the two main components of what IBO does here in Idaho. And over the past 20 years we’ve really developed this system where we can do research and get scientific value from it, but add this component of education that reaches out to the local community. I think in Idaho that’s important, and in Mozambique I think it’s even more important.”