by Laura Bednar
The University of Akron Field Station continued to connect art and nature with the recent addition of a chimney swift bird tower for the winged creatures to rest.
Dr. Lara Roketenetz, field station director, explained that chimney swifts are in decline due to a lack of towers in which to rest. People are plugging chimneys in homes, and factories have fewer chimneys. Also, insects, the chimney swift’s food source, are in decline.
Roketenetz said the artificial chimney, officially dedicated in the Bath Nature Preserve at the township’s “Fall into Nature” event, is made of high-density foam with a thin concrete coating. Individual chimney swifts can use the space to rest, and one bird family can create a nest within it.
“We’ve had some chimney swifts in the field station before and have seen them flying overhead at night,” said Roketenetz. “They migrate here in the spring so [the tower] is here when they arrive.”
She added that the field station will sponsor a local wildlife expert in March to talk about the chimney swifts. The tower was created using funds from the Greater Akron Audubon Society.
This is not the first time artistic pieces were added to the Nature Preserve. The field station has previously partnered with Margarita Benitez, fashion technologist at TechStyleLAB and faculty director and an associate professor at The Fashion School at Kent State University, and Markus Vogl, faculty director of the M-Lab Makerspace and a professor of art at The University of Akron, to install a variety of exhibits.
LED spider rings hang near the field station, which light up at night after a spider has created a web within the ring. 3D printed turtle-basking platforms were installed in a pond at the Nature Preserve with wildlife cameras to watch turtles’ movements. A pollinator waterer, which is a 3D printed sculpture mimicking the edges of a riverbank, allows pollinators like bees to drink water without drowning.
According to the artist website, benitezvogl.com, “The work reflects on the theme of discovery, art, fragments and artifact and comments on our current state of technology and its impact on society and nature, by introducing concepts of digital fabrication … to sculptures housed in nature.”
The chimney swift tower is the latest project of Benitez and Vogl. Bath Nature Preserve visitors are asked not to touch or climb on the tower. Roketenetz said a low fence will surround the tower.
Other artistic additions include a life size eagle’s nest fort, created by artist Kate Sopko; movable platforms by a local Eagle Scout; and bird portraits painted by high school students.
Roketenetz said she the additions are meant to help the public feel more welcome. “Art helps people bridge the gap between science and nature,” she said. ∞