Category: Stewardship

Bird Population Declines – And How We Can Help

November 4, 2019

Ornithologists have long recognized Mount Auburn as one of metropolitan Boston’s most important bird refuges. Its 175 acres of green space and rich vegetation are crucial resources amid recent urbanization trends. A 2019 study from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology reports that there are three billion fewer birds in the U.S. and Canada since 1970, meaning one in four birds has disappeared over the past fifty years, with steepest declines in the eastern U.S. And according to the annual State of the Birds Report, a comprehensive analysis on bird populations in America published by the Secretary of the Interior since 2009, nearly a third of the nation’s 800 bird species are endangered, threatened, or in significant decline due to habitat loss, invasive species, and other threats. We recognize that these studies signal a broader ecological crisis. Luckily, we’re also aware that it’s not too late to help species which rely on ecosystems like those offered at Mount Auburn. We have therefore been prioritizing initiatives that are making the Cemetery an even better destination for both year-round and migratory bird populations, both through habitat enhancement throughout our landscape and collecting data (with the help of our community) on how well these habitats are serving their populations.

Yellow Warbler in Bradford Pear, photo by Brooks Mathewson

In recent years, Mount Auburn has become a living laboratory for scientists studying wildlife populations like our many species of birds. We now also have a multi-generational team of over 100 well-trained volunteers making it possible for these scientists to acquire the data they need at a much higher volume than they (or our own staff) would ever be able to on their own. These volunteers are part of our Citizen Science Program, now in its fifth year, with studies on phenology in our landscape each spring and fall to help us track changes in the timing of leaf, flower, and insect emergence related to weather and climate disruption (which impacts food availability for migratory birds). The program also features a new survey (launched in 2019) of breeding bird abundance and distribution throughout the Cemetery.

Black-throated Green Warbler in Canada Yew, photo by Brooks Mathewson

We have partnered with Brooks Mathewson, an ecologist with a long history of birding at Mount Auburn, to lead the program ever since its first year. Looking ahead to 2020, he will once again offer a series of workshops, training walks, and educational materials to teach our team of volunteers how to collect data for three studies in the spring and fall: breeding birds, red-backed salamanders, and phenology. Brooks then organizes, enters, analyzes, and summarizes the data; and he follows up with reports on the findings. With every year of data and analysis, we are better able to take a proactive approach to determining what adjustments need to be made in our landscape to maintain this rare resource: a thriving, sustainable urban wildlife habitat.Our Citizen Science Program would not be possible without support from friends like you; please donate today! If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, contact Wildlife Conservation & Sustainability Manager Paul Kwiatkowski at

Top photo is of a Northern Parula, by Brooks Mathewson

Attention Citizen Scientists!

August 31, 2019

The 2019 Fall Phenology Study Training schedule is set.

Classroom Trainings

Sunday September 29 with Jim Gorman at Story Chapel from 10:00 – 11:30am


Tuesday October 1 with Brooks Mathewson at Bigelow Chapel from 10:00 – 11:30am

Field Trainings

Monday September 30 with Jim Gorman from 10:00 – 11:30am
Meet at the Citizen Science Gatehouse


Wednesday October 2 with Brooks Mathewson from 10:00 – 11:30am
Meet at the Citizen Science Gatehouse

Please plan on attending 1 classroom and 1 field training

Current citizen scientists are encouraged to attend and new volunteers are welcome to join our community of discovery and science!

RSVP to Paul Kwiatkowski – Wildlife Conservation & Sustainability Manager

Attention Citizen Scientists

January 31, 2019

Save the Dates!

Spring Phenology Study Training

Don’t stand on the sidelines. Get involved. You can do your part by observing and documenting nature under threat by climate disruption. Please attend one classroom and one field training to prepare for spring data collection.


Phenophase ID Classroom Sessions:

Sunday March 3 from 10:00-11:30am at Story Chapel


Monday March 4 from 10:00-11:30am at Story Chapel

Field Training:

Sunday March 10 from 10:00-11:30am (meet at the Citizen Science Gatehouse)


Monday March 11 from 10:00-11:30am (meet at the Citizen Science Gatehouse)

Citizen Science Naturalist Program

Join our community of volunteers that have become well-trained research assistants and informal educators. Learn about the species we coexist with. From exceptional trainings, to fun field research opportunities, this program is for all nature lovers.


Saturday March 2: Amphibians & Reptiles – from 2-4pm at Story Chapel

Saturday March 9: Insects – from 3-5pm at Story Chapel

Saturday March 16: Birds – from 3-5pm at Story Chapel

Saturday March 23: Intro to Plant ID – from 3-5pm at Story Chapel

Saturday March 30: Mammals – from 3-5pm at Story Chapel

Saturday April 6: Fungi – from 3-5pm at Story Chapel

Saturday April 13: Field Notes & Nature Photography – from 3-5pm at Bigelow Chapel

Saturday April 20: Informal Educators & iNaturalist app / Boston City Nature Challenge – from 3-5pm at Story Chapel

If you would like to participate, please contact:

Paul Kwiatkowski

Wildlife Conservation & Sustainability Manager



Citizen Science Mushroom ID Walk

October 20, 2018
On October 4, 2018 Ron Trial led a citizen science mushroom ID walk at Mount Auburn Cemetery.  Mr. Trial is a former president of the Boston Mycological Club.  He served the club from the late 1970’s through the early 1980’s and remains an enthusiast for collecting and identifying fungi.  Ron also volunteers at the greenhouse at Mount Auburn.

Several current citizen scientists, as well as some new faces met Ron on Laurel Avenue, where introductions, guidebooks, and collecting parameters where discussed before the group ventured into the woodland surrounding Consecration Dell.

Each participant brought along a basic mushroom survey kit, which included: a collecting basket, pocket knife, 10x lens, wax paper, and a smart phone for photos and ID assistance via apps such as the Rogers Mushrooms App.

The group spent the next ninety minutes carefully exploring the Dell and collecting fungi for identification.  Conditions have been excellent for fungi growth, due to the mild temperatures and the rainy end of summer and start to autumn.  As we strolled through the woodland, we carefully collected sixteen species of fungi.  Common and edible mushrooms, such as the Horse mushroom (Agaricus arvensis) and the Jelly Ear (Auricularia auricula-judae) were collected, as well as many that require additional study to ensure proper identification.  Ron explained to the group that even though he has many years of experience identifying fungi, he most likely would only be able to identify about 10 percent of the species we would see.  This is not uncommon for any avid mushroom hunter and it is why it is important to take your time and make use of guidebooks and apps when attempting to ID your discoveries.

Some of the most fun and interesting things we learned were the strange and interesting names often given to mushrooms.  The Angel of Death (Amanita ocreata) which is not found here (native to the Pacific Northwest) was a favorite.

We plan to offer more mushroom ID walks in the future and Ron plans to lead a fungi training for our Citizen Science Naturalist Program in 2019.