The Stanford Birdwatching Club recently defeated the Brown University Taekwondo Club by a slim seven votes to win $5,000 in ZipCar credits in the Students with Drive competition.
The tally in the final stage of the competition was 618 votes to 611. In early stages of the competition, sponsored by Ford and ZipCar, a committee selected student organizations from campuses around the country to advance to the voting stage of the competition.
Stanford’s Birdwatching Club, one of more than 600 student groups on campus, entered the contest off of a whim of post-doctoral member Joyce Wong.
“We are a pretty niche interest group, so for us to collect that many votes was a great sense of accomplishment,” said club president Sophie Christel ’15.
Due to the small size of the group itself, in order to get votes, the club posted in Facebook groups and campaigned to people in their dorms. Christel says that each outing of the club generally attracts between five and 10 members.
The club is content with the smaller number of members as birding is often more successful with fewer people. The group goes on excursions about once every two weeks to a variety of environments. Some destinations, such as Lake Lagunita, are on campus. Other trips include visiting Jasper Ridge, the Palo Alto Bay Lands and Half Moon Bay.
Because of these trips, transportation costs make up the largest part of the Birdwatching Club’s budget.
“The money should last us a few years, but if it doesn’t last, that’s great because it means we have more members,” Christel said.
Christel, an earth systems major, believes it is important to get more young people involved in birding.
“Birding can be a valuable thing for scientific reporting and such, and you need to have a certain acuity of vision and hearing to be a good birder— there is a huge amount of citizen-science,” Christel said. “We need to get people who are energetic and young and have good hearing and vision.”
Beyond just the scientific values, Christel says that birding is a skill that adds “extra awareness or dimension to the world, much like perfect pitch of a musician or speaking another language.”
The Stanford Birdwatching Club plans to partner with Stanford Outdoor Education to plan a trip to the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge next quarter.
Contact Ada Throckmorton at adastat ‘at’ stanford.edu.