Southeast Volusia Audubon Society, P.O. Box 46, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170;

February 2012 Speaker

Our February speaker will be Dr. Richard Raid, employed by the University of Florida as a professor of plant pathology.  Dr. Raid grew up in Pennsylvania and moved to Florida with his family in 1986.  Raised with a love of the outdoors and an appreciation for nature outside his scientific discipline, he initiated a program promoting the use of barn owls for sustainable rodent control in 1994.  The UF Barn Owl Program quickly gained the acceptance of the agricultural industry with which Dr. Raid worked, providing the Everglades Agricultural Area with some of the highest barn owl densities in North America.  Not one to miss an opportunity for engaging kids in nature, Raid has used the project as an educational outreach program.  Thousands of local students, from elementary school to college, have learned the benefits of this spectacular raptor to mankind through his frequent lectures, workshops, and displays.  In turn, hundreds of students have actively participated in his program, constructing and erecting nesting boxes.  Now, more widely recognized for barn owls than plant pathology, Raid and the UF Barn Owl Project have been featured on CNN, the National Geographic Society’s website, and PBS’s Nature series.  Dr. Raid has also agreed to do a presentation to the Grade 7 science classes at New Smyrna Middle School in the afternoon before his presentation to SEVAS. 

Dr. Raid titles his talk Barn Owls: Nature’s Mousetrap.  Preying primarily on rodents that commonly destroy or contaminate human food supplies, Barn Owls have frequently been referred to as "one of the most beneficial birds on earth." In recent years, Barn Owl populations throughout the nation have declined with the demise of favored habitat and suitable nesting sites. In 1994, as part of a science fair project, a high school student initiated a research project to investigate the possibility of enhancing Barn Owl populations for sustainable rodent control in the Everglades Agricultural Area of South Florida. Placing nesting boxes of various designs along canals and field edges, the student quickly learned that Barn Owls would find them and rear their broods, commonly two per year. With the full support of the agricultural industry, hundreds of nesting boxes now dot the Glades, with an observed occupancy rate exceeding 80%. What began as a science fair project has grown into the University of Florida's Barn Owl Project. Although focused on Barn Owl research, the Barn Owl Project also serves as a tremendous outreach and education program. In this seminar, Dr. Richard Raid will describe the biology of Barn Owls and detail ongoing efforts to enhance their populations in South Florida and throughout the state. The presentation will include video taken of Barn Owl nestlings inside some of his nesting boxes.