The Bird Banding Laboratory welcomes three new students to digitize legacy data

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Two new students started working on the Band-Scan Project in January 2020 and a third joined in early February, through the Secondary Transition to Employment Program – USGS Partnership, or STEP-UP.

This article is part of the 2020 Patuxent Science & News Volume 5 Issue 1 Newsletter

STEP-UP Student & Teacher

Fairfax County educator, Andrew Garcia, provides additional training support to a student participating in the Band-Scan Project (Credit: Chelsea Steinbrecher-Hoffmann, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. Public domain.)

Since 2015, Patuxent’s Bird Banding Lab has been working with Fairfax County Public Schools to provide hands-on job training to students, age 18-22, with cognitive and/or physical differences. Students are trained by both BBL staff and special educators to scan and catalogue bird banding records collected across North America from 1960 to 2000. These records are considered legacy data as they are not in a digital, accessible format. The Band-Scan team consists of current STEP-UP students and STEP-UP graduates who are now part-time employees at USGS Reston. They have scanned and catalogued more than 750,000 out of an estimated 1.5 million sheets of legacy bird banding data. This is more than 40 full four-drawer-filing-cabinets scanned so far, obviously a very productive team!

The BBL is one of several USGS programs nationwide taking part in STEP-UP. The program is geared towards teaching students not only technical skills for the workforce, but also the professional social skills needed to navigate an office environment. STEP-UP participants each have an Individualized Education Program designed in conjunction with their teachers and parents to achieve personalized goals. IEPs were set up under the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. An important part of the IEP is a transition plan aimed at preparing each student to become an independent young adult.

Many students have vocational training as a goal on their IEPs. While transitional assistance is required for students with an IEP, finding host sites for vocational training can prove to be a challenge for special educators. The vocational training the students receive on the Band-Scan Project and other STEP-UP projects satisfies this goal. To date, USGS is the only partner organization with Fairfax County Public Schools to provide these students with vocational training in a federal STEM setting. Since USGS Headquarters partnered with Fairfax County Public Schools in 2012, the program has proven to be a great success, expanding to sites in Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Utah.