The Bell Museum of Natural History has brought together a local artist and University of Minnesota faculty to examine the reality of bird collisions with human-built structures. The exhibit highlights both the tragic loss of individual birds and the scientific analysis of whether this mortality affects overall bird populations. “Impact: Birds in the Human-Built World” is on display through April 19 at the Bell Museum.
Inspired by her experience with Project BirdSafe—a collaborative project from the Bell Museum, Audubon Minnesota and others—Miranda Brandon’s evocative photographs are at the core of the exhibit. Brandon's large scale, high resolution images depict birds at or just after the fatal moment of impact with a building. Brandon (MFA 2014, studio art) is an alumna of the Department of Art; her faculty advisor was Jan Estep. Brandon will headline a March 5, 5:30 p.m. gallery conversation about her work, joined by Joanna Eckles, bird friendly communities manager from Audubon Minnesota. The event is free with museum admission.
“Impact” is part of a long tradition of exhibitions at the Bell that pair breathtaking imagery with valuable information about the natural world. The exhibit features panels about Project BirdSafe and University of Minnesota research developed by Bell Museum curators and Audubon Minnesota. Also on display are window applications designed to warn birds away and Brandon’s participatory project, “DIY Bird Populator.”
The topic of bird collisions was recently at the epicenter of a debate over the development of the new Vikings Stadium in Minneapolis. This exhibition aims to generate new awareness and knowledge of the presence of birds in our everyday lives.
According to Audubon Minnesota’s Eckles, “Miranda’s images connect us to these stunning birds as individuals—a perspective often lost when discussing complex conservation issues. The incredible detail she captures affirms our fascination with birds and our need to help them navigate the human built environment.”
Project BirdSafe began in 2007 to study bird-window collisions and promote solutions. Birds don’t understand glass the same way we do. They fly towards habitat or sky reflected in or seen through windows, often with fatal consequences. As the use of glass in the built environment increases, studies estimate that hundreds of millions of birds are killed annually by building collisions in the United States.
“While our research found that building collisions are not the dominant cause of declining bird populations,” says professor Robert Zink, Breckenridge Chair in Ornithology at the Bell Museum, “each of us should do what we can to save birds from harm. That should include minimizing habitat loss, keeping house cats indoors and making buildings safer for birds.”
Miranda Brandon is the Bell Museum’s Resident Artist Research Project (RARP) Showcase Artist for spring 2015. The RARP program is made possible by generous support from The McKnight Foundation.
The Bell Museum is Minnesota’s state natural history museum. Our mission is to discover, document and understand nature and promote informed stewardship of our world. For details, visit bellmuseum.org.
Originally published on University of Minnesota Discover.