This is a story about two men, an island, and ten thousand seagulls.
The men both teach biology at Seventh-day Adventist Universities. Dr. Joe teaches at Walla Walla University, and Dr. Jim at Andrews University. But, both Dr. Jim and Dr. Joe spend much of their Summer with thousands and thousands of seagulls on a tiny island in Washington state. Dr. Joe has done this for 22 summers. He practically knows each seagull by name!
To get to Protection Island you have to travel by boat - a small Boston Whaler boat with Captain Jim manning the wheel. Chances are that you’ll be the only people on the island. Over the years Protection Island has been dairy farm, a cattle ranch, a place for old people to retire, and even a hunting lodge for wealthy congressmen.
But, a number of years ago the United States Government realized that Protection Island was a very special place for wildlife and so they took over the island and made it into a National Wildlife Refuge. In fact, since the island is such a special place, and since the trees and flowers and animals and birds that live there need to live without having lots of people around, the island is CLOSED. No one can come.
...Unless you are a biological researcher helping us better understand the wildlife.
That’s why Dr. Joe and Dr. Jim spend their summers here. They’re counting seagulls, they’re counting seagull eggs. They’re watching how seagulls get along and learning how to help the birds survive for many years to come.
The seagulls have giant wings - sometimes over five feet wide. See how they stretch the wings wide when they’re coming into the colony to land at their nest? You sure wouldn’t want to get in a seagull’s way, would you!
Sometimes one of the island’s black-tailed deer comes into the seagull colony, but the gulls chase him away really quick!
And sometimes one of the island’s Bald Eagles flies near the colony hoping to find a small seagull chick away from its Mom and Pop. That wakes all the seagulls up and they hide their chicks and then fly fast to chase the eagle away. Dr. Joe call the eagles “Devil Birds” because of the way they steal the seagull babies.
The seagulls lay two or three eggs in the weeds and then watch carefully for the day when a little seagull beak starts poking out of an egg. They know that their real work will begin now that they’ll have a little brood of perfectly-camouflaged seagull chicks.
Dr. Joe and Dr. Jim walk through the seagull colony at least once each day, counting eggs and checking on the chicks. Even though their research will help the seagulls, sometimes the seagulls don’t understand and fly hard at the researchers. Sometimes they even leave gifts on Dr. Jim’s hard hat!
In a few days, a group of college students will be joining Dr. Jim and Dr. Joe to help count the seagull eggs. Someday you might be able to learn to do work just like they are doing!
Protection Island is one of the most special places God has made in our world. Even here the lives of God’s creatures are in danger. But biology teachers like Dr. Jim and Dr. Joe are helping us understand the seagulls so that we can help them stay healthy for many years in the future.
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