For one week in early November, bird-themed art adorned the walls of the CoLab gallery space in Princeton’s Lewis Center for the Arts as part of the first-ever BirDiversity art exhibit. Almost 90 pieces—including photographs, paintings, sketches, embroidery, and videos—greeted an estimated 250 visitors on the exhibit’s opening night on November 11. From a video entitled “Manakin Dance Party” to a photograph called “Magellanic Penguins Sharing Secrets,” the art media were as diverse as the birds they showcased. BirDiversity was a celebration of art, science and ornithology in the Princeton University community, resulting from a collaboration between the Stoddard Lab and the Council on Science and Technology (CST).
“We were delighted to receive museum-quality art submissions from more than 50 faculty, staff, students, and their families,” said Lazarena Lazarova, a member of the Stoddard Lab.
“This speaks to the broad impact birds have on members of the University community. It was incredible to showcase and celebrate our shared appreciation for birds,” said Audrey Miller, a PhD student in the Stoddard Lab who studies hummingbird courtship displays.
Princeton University is home to a vibrant undergraduate and graduate student-birding society and several research labs exploring aspects of avian behavior, conservation, and biomechanics. Last year, a team of Princeton students won the New Jersey’s World Series of Birding, an annual competition attracting teams from up and down the East Coast.
“Interest in birds seems to be at an all-time high here at Princeton,” said Dr. Stoddard, whose research group investigates the evolution of birds, with a focus on their coloration and color vision. “With BirDiversity, our goal was to bring together birders, artists, scientists and nature enthusiasts: birds have a way of connecting people. We also wanted to highlight ways in which we all can make Princeton’s campus a more sustainable and hospitable place for birds.”
BirDiversity is the first of several community-oriented projects planned as part of the “Princeton Better for Birds Project.” Together with a number of campus groups—including the Office of Sustainability, the Princeton Birding Society, and the Council on Science and Technology—the Stoddard Lab is monitoring campus buildings for bird collisions, advocating for bird-friendly glass, and planting a pollinator garden at Princeton’s Stony Ford Research Station. You can learn more about the projects here.
Appreciating the beauty of birds is at the heart of these projects, starting with BirDiversity. “I am so grateful to have been a part of this show. May it be the first of many!” said Jen Cabral, a Digital Imaging Technician at the Princeton University Library. Cabral’s piece, entitled “Bird Clock,” used color charts to document local daily bird sightings recorded by citizen scientists during the pandemic.
Another artist, Bing Lin, a graduate student in the Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy program, said, “The inaugural BirDiversity exhibition showcases what is to me the gold standard of art: to invoke at first awe, and then thought. I’m so grateful to take part in this movement across campus to transform, for many, birds from mundane to magical in such a brilliant way!" Bing’s photograph, “Reflections,” won the exhibition's “Beak-tastic Masterpiece” award for best submission overall.