For the past two years, environmental staff at the Port of Vancouver USA have used the annual Take Your Child to Work Day in April to educate youngsters about a special species of bird – the purple martin.

The purple martin is a migratory bird that winters in South America and moves north into the U.S. and Canada in the summer to nest and breed.

Port of Vancouver Environmental Manager Matt Graves said gourds were installed to try and attract purple martin to the port’s wetland mitigation bank. In 2016, staff upgraded to gourds that are more attractive to purple martins and less likely to attract gourd-stealing starlings.

Staff decided to enlist the help of the kids in 2016 to check on the houses, and this year had them help with the annual raising of the gourds, which hang from metal poles in the port’s mitigation bank. Because Take Your Child to Work Day falls on the same day in April every year, the environmental team thought it would be a good exercise to have the kids raise the gourds so they could learn more about the martin and why providing habitat for the species is beneficial to both the port and the community.

“There have been purple martins seen in our mitigation bank, but none have nested here yet,” said Graves. “We’re trying to support the species and help revitalize them by providing them with good nesting space.”

In addition to putting kids to work with the birds, port staff decided that 2017 would be a good year to add in bees.

Honey bees throughout the world have been impacted by everything from loss of habitat to die-off from pesticide use. Because bees are a key in the pollination of everything from flowers to fruits and vegetables, port Environmental Program Manager Mary Mattix thought adding bees in an area adjacent to the port’s mitigation bank in 2017 would be a good way for the port to support sustainability and growth for the local bee population.

To that end, the port purchased native wildflower seed for sowing into the soil near Elmer’s Pond and installed bee houses to support population growth for the species.

Graves said he felt the efforts provided a good learning exercise for the kids while adding versatility to the port’s natural areas and supporting species diversity in the local area.