February 16, 2001

New Ornithology Lab Will Be Built

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New Hall for Ornithology

Christen Eddy

Cornell will begin construction of a new ornithology laboratory later this spring which will house one hundred employees, undergraduate and graduate students, who current make do with a cramped building and four trailers in Lansing, a few miles outside Ithaca.

At 84,000 square feet, the proposed building will be over five times the size of the current facility. Construction plans include a two-story observation tower and expansion capabilities for the cedar and glass laboratory, which will be built on the shore of the Sapsucker Woods Pond.

“We’ve known for quite some time that we’ve needed a new building. Currently we hav-e four trailers, in addition to a very cramped building that holds many of our researchers,” said Allison Wells, director of communications and marketing.

“We will begin [construction] sometime this spring and hope to have it completed in two years. Ambitious, but do-able, we believe,” she added, describing the plan.

The Lansing Planning Board approved construction of the new building on Jan. 30 with some restrictions including limiting construction hours so as not to disturb the nearby residential community.

The board also imposed traffic safety measures for the surrounding community and forthcoming discussions will ensue with the laboratory regarding landscaping and lighting.

A donation campaign began in 1999 to fund the construction of the $29 million building.

“Most (of the money) is raised by our donor base. The lab has more than 26,000 members and friends,” Wells said.

Nathan Cote ’01, who has worked at the Ornithology Laboratory for three years, expressed his satisfaction about the new project.

“It’s a wonderful resource especially if you’re interested in wildlife or conservation. Hopefully, it’ll get a lot of attention,” he said.

But students who are not involved in the field are more cautious about the facility.

“Honestly I think it appeals more to people outside of Cornell. As far as students go, I don’t think (the laboratory) makes much of a difference,” commented Jennifer Sun ’02.

“Unless it’s in a class, you usually don’t hear anything about the laboratory. I can’t think of any reason I would go up there,” said Tara Mullarkey ’01.

Although she had an opportunity to tour the facilities and preview the proposal with her Ecology and Evolutionary Biology 267 class, Introduction to Conservation, Sun agreed that “Most students don’t even know where (the laboratory) is.”

Wells explained, however, that the new building will be more than a research facility.

“The Museum of Vertebrates, currently at Brown Road, will be located here. Also, our library will be expanded, and the atmosphere overall will be more conductive to research,” she said.

Concerns spread regarding the construction’s deleterious affects on the environment.

“The pond and Sapsucker Woods are going to get bulldozed,” Sun said.

According to Wells however, the construction “will actually result in more wetlands, which is very important to many species of birds,” she said.

“The lab’s mission is to interpret and conserve the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on the birds. The new building will allow us to better fulfill this mission,” she added.

Wells hoped the new building will attract students and visitors alike.

“I think visitors, including students, are going to be very thrilled with the new building. The ‘lab’ is an important place in ornithological history.” she said, inviting students to visit, “come observe our bird-feeding garden and walk our sanctuary trails. It’s a nice place to take a break from studying,” said Wells.

Archived article by Christen Eddy