The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science is expecting some new residents, and the Student Environmental Awareness League has been working hard to make sure they feel welcome.
The group, along with sponsor Dr. Bill Odom, is putting finishing touches on a chimney swift tower, a 15 foot tall structure meant to be home to the campus' populations of chimney swifts. Chimney swifts are a species of bird commonly found in the region.
“The students have done everything,” said Odom. “I’m really here just to make sure no one saws his or her arm off.”
The tower is also equipped with a camera system that will broadcast live to the Internet. People curious about the animals will soon be able to study them in their habitat via the MSMS website.
The chimney swift tower has been a project Odom has been wanting to do for the past ten years.
“The inspiration was Mark LaSalle,” said Odom. “He’s built several of these and gave me the book that describes how to make them.”
LaSalle is the head of the Audubon Society on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He is also a former member of the MSMS Advisory Board.
“We had some interest when we first had the idea, and I spent a lot of time figuring out the cost of the tower and going to Lowe’s to hunt down materials,” said Odom. “But interest kind of petered out. It wasn’t until last year that the students had the interest and drive to get this done.”
Odom says he has been extremely impressed by the dedication of the 20-plus students who have worked to make the tower a reality, especially SEAL president and MSMS senior Coby Anderson, of Hernando, and SEAL Secretary and MSMS fellow senior Mariah Warner, of Diamondhead.
“Those two spent all last year working to get permission from MUW for us to build this thing,” said Odom. “I might of pushed them in the right direction, but they wrote the letters, they met with the physical plant, they did everything.”
Despite the tremendous amount of dedication and work done by Anderson and Warner, they remain very humble about the tower.
“Well, for us I guess it was a two year project,” said Warner. “But Dr. Odom has been working on this for ten years.”
The tower was completed on Saturday, and SEAL expects the camera system to be operational and live before Spring Break. The normal migration of chimney swifts suggests that the birds will arrive to the area sometime in mid-March. The tower is located on the far western side of the campus, near Shackelford.
SEAL and MSMS would also like to thank Mr. David Morrow who allowed the group to use his equipment to complete the tower, as well as MSMS Information Technology staff members Joey Herring and Thom Hackman who have also been instrumental in the project. Most of all, the students who helped complete the structure want to thank their mentor, Dr. Odom.
“I think we’re going to try to dedicate it to Dr. Odom in some way,” said Anderson. “He’s wanted to do this for so long, and there’s no way this would have happened without him.”