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STEM Education Through Cool Science

Anacostia Raptor Watch

STEM Education Through Cool Science


Two of our released bald eagles, Liberty & Justice, on our Eagle Cam with two eggs!

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Female osprey protects her young beneath the S. Capitol Street bridge. Photo by Kellie Bollinder

 Earth Conservation Corps engages DC youth in STEM education through our Raptor Watch programs! 

We partner with scientists around the world as we track our native raptor species to provide meaningful data that will help sustain these vital  birds in their natural habitats.


Our Raptor Watch and our Raptor Education programs  make our efforts unique -- and most importantly, effectively engage our youth in building their STEM skills as they find connection with the birds and with science that positively impacts and protects our environment. 

Watch this video following former Chief of Police and Earth Conservation Corps Board Member, Cathy L. Lanier as she partakes in our Osprey Tracking Program with leading ornithologist Dr. Bierregaard & our Bald Eagle Cam monitoring!

Osprey Tracking with Dr. Bierregaard 

Follow along the journey of two ospreys, Rodney & Ron Harper as Earth Conservation Corps tracked their migration patterns f with leading ornithologist, Dr. Bierregaard!

Earth Conservation Corps' long-term research effort, in Partnership with: Dr. Robert O. Bierregaard of the University of North Carolina, District Department of the Environment, National Geographic Society, Metropolitan Police Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey and Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology

Project Overview – Written by Field School Interns Jules Feeney and Ezra Wright (2014)

The Anacostia River was once among the most polluted rivers in the United States. Thanks to the efforts of many in the local communities, fish and wildlife like bald eagles and osprey have slowly returned to the area, and call it home. The Earth Conservation Corps and National Geographic have placed cameras that overlook bald eagle and osprey nests in the nation’s capitol.


There are multiple osprey nests in the southern Washington DC/Anacostia region. There are sites where they have been nesting for the past ten years. Earth Conservation Corps, working with our partners, have placed telemetry devices on two adult male ospreys. Earth Conservation Corps placed a camera with a view of one of the Osprey’s nests on South Capitol St. Bridge, and another camera that observes a nest of Bald Eagles within the Metropolitan Police Academy grounds. People in the DC community will be able to view the osprey nests live, as well as track their movements and migrations to South America next year. This will allow those living near the ospreys to gain a greater understanding and appreciation for them, as well as provide valuable data on the osprey’s lifestyle, diet, and migrations.


From March to August, the Earth Conservation Corps will track and monitor two adult male ospreys and their nests on the Anacostia River. The goal, while the birds are here, is to gather data and share the information with the community. The key to success will be public access to the information. A link to the live webcam at the nests will be located on a number of the partners’ websites, such as National Geographic, Earth Conservation Corps and Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  

Creating Future Scientists

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Rodney Stotts holds RODNEY 

 The goal of this pilot program creating STEM Education Gateways by engaging students in meaningful data collection that our partner scientists need to help continue the conservation of our local raptors. Participants will include; local school groups including, People Animals Love, National Geographic’s TAGS program (a program that connects with local DC students to introduce them to GIS mapping), youth working with MPD and DYRS and members in our community.

Key observations will be: diet, mating behavior, parenting behavior and interactions with other birds. In addition to observations by individuals, the tracking device will allow anyone at a computer to follow the ospreys through their daily routine, specifically where they are fishing. Once the birds become familiar with the area, it is likely that they will develop a frequented fishing location.  

The tracking data and participation of local students in our citizen science program will be shared through our Anacostia Raptor Watch Blog.  Once the ospreys leave the nation’s capital, all aspects of the data will be compiled and presented to the partners. At this point, part one will be complete and part two will begin.  

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During/After the osprey migration, all information about the osprey’s migration will be posted online, along with a map, tracking the entire migration of the ospreys in a format similar to Dr. Bierregaard’s website. There will be a map with a trail marking where the birds traveled and a few words describing what may have actually happened to the birds to make them take the path they did.  Updates on the osprey’s movements will be posted weekly as they migrate.

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Former Chief of Police and Earth Conservation Corps Board Member, Cathy L. Lanier, releases Rodney to set off on his migration.

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When the birds reach their destination, Earth Conservation Corps will attempt to locate an elementary school in the region the ospreys are in. Our youth and school partners can share our data with the international school and attempt to share our observation curriculum to see if the student would like to conduct observations of their own while the ospreys are in their region. This could create a unique global student exchange of data which could be very exciting for all participants.

2014 update

Ron and Rodney spent the winter in South America. Brazil and Venezuela were their warm weather countries of choice! They began their journey back to the Anacostia in the early spring. Here’s the recap… 

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If you recall last year’s Osprey tagging project on the Anacostia River you should remember that it was a total success! Thanks to Rob Bierregaard’s GPS backpacks we can track their every move! The two males that were tagged are named Ron Harper and Rodney. Late last summer they both left the Anacostia River headed to South America two proud happy fathers! Fast forward to March 8, 2014. Ron's mate that was also banded was spotted rebuilding the nest! 

On March 8th we noticed she had company, it was a male osprey! All we could think about was Ron being back on the Anacostia River. But wait a minute!? According to Ron's GPS he was only in South Carolina! Then we noticed that the male that she was with did not have a GPS device on his back! What!? Ron's mate is with another male! While Ron was making his way north his wife is getting romantic on the Anacostia River! Now it's late evening on March 9th, Ron is in southern Virginia, we are estimating he should arrive back to his nest on the morning of March 10th.

On March 10th, Earth Conservation Corps members, National Park Trust and students from the Washington Middle School for Girls set out for a welcome home party! Ron was spotted first thing in the morning hovering over the nest and he was not happy at all! When he saw his mate with another bird a battle broke loose on the Anacostia River! The two males challenged each other but the new male must have succeeded because he is still attending the female and their clutch. 

To visit Dr. Bierregaard's website, ospreytrax, and see the flight patterns of Ron and Rodney, the two male ospreys we tracked... 


    Click on their names below:

               Ron's Journey                         Rodney's Journey

Anacostia Bald Eagle Cam

Bald eagle, Justice, rotates her eggs as seen on our Eagle Cam

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Evelyn and her son Thomas (a local citizen scientist) look out over the police academy nest from their apartment. Photo by John Mein.

Bald Eagle in the Nation’s Capital 

After over 50 years with the bald eagle missing from one of its native homes in the Nation's Capital, Earth Conservation Corps returned the bald eagle to DC in 1992. In 2017, we decided to install bald eagle surveillance video cameras to track and monitor two bald eagles' behavior. We opened the video surveillance to the public and have had viewership from the all around the world. From watching these two bald eagles, Liberty & Justice -- Everyone began to care for and track these incredible raptors. 


Installing Eagle Cam

There are two known bald eagle nests in our nation’s capital. Earth Conservation Corps has placed cameras on both of those nests. One nest is located within the Metropolitan Police Academy grounds.  

The second nest is located on Bald Eagle Ridge. These cameras allow the public to observe the eagles, and learn more about their diet, hunting patterns, and how they care for their young. The observations of the eagles took place this past spring and will continue when the eagles return. 

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