I don’t like to repeat elements of stories in the #WATWB posts, but I am returning to The Cathedral of Learning this month. As you know, if you follow this blog, the cathedral is the signature building on The University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) campus, and a symbol of the proud city in which it was built. It’s also my favorite building. Unfortunately, the building has come to be involved in a prideful act that has unfortunate consequences. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,
“The powerful blue beams that shine vertically from Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning signal sports wins for university teams, but the ‘victory lights’ also can disrupt migrating birds and cause them to crash into the building.
The pillar of blue light radiating from the top of the 535-foot National Register of Historic Places landmark may block the paths of birds migrating at night, confusing them and trapping them within the beam and potentially lead to fatal collisions.”
Researchers first noticed this behavior during the times in which the symbolic two “towers of light” beam skyward at the site of the former World Trade Center in New York, on the anniversary of the attack that toppled the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001.
From the study:
“When the installation was illuminated, birds aggregated in high densities, decreased flight speeds, followed circular flight paths and vocalized frequently,” the report said…
When the lights were extinguished the behavioral disruptions disappeared, suggesting the migration hazard could be eliminated by simply turning off the lights.”
After this study was released, staff from the Pittsburgh Audubon Society chapter notified Pitt administrators of the potential problem with the victory lights.
“During bird migration, many species travel at night. These birds may become trapped and disoriented in the vertical beams of light. As the birds become trapped, there is increased risk of collisions and bird death,” said Rachel Handel, Audubon spokeswoman.
Football season, unfortunately, corresponds with the height of the fall migration.
“In perfect conditions, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, millions of birds could be moving regionally during peak migration time, throughout the night,” said Ms. Handel.
Of course, I had to chuckle, noting that in recent years, there haven’t been many occasions to shine the victory lights during football season, but this year is looking better (the lights were on last night) and like most Pitt alumni, I am optimistic about the future. I am also happy to report that the university is working with the Audubon Society to address the problem:
“The university quickly indicated its willingness to cycle the lights on for 45 minutes, then off for 15 minutes,” said Ms. Handel. “The lights will be monitored, and adjustments made as necessary.”
I am proud of the university for agreeing to act and to continue to monitor the situation. I wish them many more opportunities to shine the lights, but in an environmentally friendly manner.
The “We are the World” Blogfest has extended its year-long journey and is in its 18th month. This blogfest’s goal is to spread the message of light, hope and love in today’s world. We are challenging all participants to share the positive side of humanity. This month’s co-hosts: Eric Lahti, Inderpreet Uppal, Shilpa Garg, Mary Giese and Roshan Radhakrishnan, welcome participants and encourage all to join in during future months. #WATWB is a blog hop on the last Friday of every month. Click HERE to check out the intention and rules of the blogfest and feel free to sign up at any time between now and February of 2019.
Once again, you can enjoy a few of my favorite images of the Cathedral of Learning