Franklin & Marshall senior Kelly Minard sought a project that combined science, education and action. Her resulting research will benefit generations for years to come.
In partnership with the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and the F&M Marshall Fellows program, Minard collected videos of wildlife using footage from motion-activated trail cameras to create accessible and educational materials for the popular conservation and recreation site.
“It seemed like the perfect way to complement my biology courses and spend some time in and with the community,” said Minard, a biology major.
Popular among hikers and bird watchers alike, Hawk Mountain is a 2,600-acre area of protected land spanning Berks and Schuylkill counties in Pennsylvania. A world-renowned center for the study of birds of prey, the sanctuary provides raptor sighting opportunities each fall as the large birds follow the ridgeline when flying their migratory route south. This allows for long-term monitoring of raptors, along with spectacular views.
Hawk Mountain is also home to a wealth of species not easily sighted in the commonwealth, including black bear, bobcat and fisher.
In December, Minard installed motion-activated trail cameras to examine the interaction between human trail use and wildlife populations. In addition, she used footage collected by Professor of Biology Daniel Ardia in previous years.
“Kelly dove into the online materials that Hawk Mountain Sanctuary had available and she saw the need to augment their educational materials with some short engaging videos to orient visitors to the wildlife and ongoing research there,” Ardia said.
Minard examined patterns of human and wildlife trail use, particularly the spatial distribution of species. With roughly 60,000 visitors per year, Hawk Mountain serves as an ideal site to examine how human recreation leads to shifts in habitat usage in the sanctuary.
The research involved ample hikes to the site’s 1,500-feet-high vista.
“Though the days in the field are long, I can easily say they are my favorite part of my research and this project. Especially during a pandemic, getting time outside and enjoying nature has been a redeeming feature of a mostly online senior year,” Minard said.
The resulting videos bridge the gap between the academic researchers that utilize Hawk Mountain and hikers that also frequent its trails.
Minard hopes the videos will educate and inspire individuals in the community to take action in support of conservation and other science-based initiatives.
“The videos we make will hopefully inspire others to engage with nature and love it as much as we do,” she said.
Take a closer look at Minard's research, along with other Spring Research Fair participants.Watch Presentation
“It seemed like the perfect way to complement my biology courses and spend some time in and with the community.”
Stories of the Spring Research Fair