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Houston area wild life murals

New mural calls for interconnectedness of species in urban spaces

By Indira Zaldivar

On April 21, UHD hosted a panel discussion including the people who collaborated for the new mural on campus. The 223-foot-long mural spans along Brays Bayou Greenway Trail right below UHD’s historic One Main Building at the confluence of White Oak Bayou and Buffalo Bayou.

The mural is dedicated to bird migration and aims to raise awareness for Houston’s diversity of wildlife and the importance of improving the interconnectivity of species in an urban space.

The mural involved the work of painter, scientific illustrator and Ink Dwell Studio co-founder, Jane Kim, along with UHD faculty and members of Houston Parks Board, Houston Audubon and Buffalo Bayou Partnership. Houston Parks Board and Buffalo Bayou Partnership commissioned the mural.

Buffalo Bayou is home to an array of species of birds. However, the mural was narrowed down to include six species. The center of the mural showcases the six species in both their spring breeding plumage and their non-breeding plumage. The right exhibits three species of birds that winter in Houston. On the left are three species that make a stop in Houston for breeding.

Kim, who was referred to as the visionary of the project, said she witnessed an abundance of life during the six weeks she and her team painted the mural. She said that one of the goals of the mural is to “lift those blinders that we often have” when walking around an urban place.

“We should be on the lookout for wildlife,” Kim said. “Hopefully when we make all of these species hard to ignore through the act of monumentalizing them in a public artwork, then when [people] are out and about, they are more prone to seeing these animals in their daily lives.”

Learning to coexist with wildlife has become increasingly important with the world population growing. UHD’s urban location presents a way to model and teach students that “humans and other organisms can live together in a sustainable way,” according to UHD professor of biology and microbiology and director for Center for Urban Agriculture and Sustainability, Lisa Morano, Ph.D.

One way to act in favor of bird conservation is planting native plants. Having native plants in gardens and partaking in sustainable strategies are a win-win situation for both wildlife and humans. The Sciences and Technology Building, the first gold level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design building in UHS, prides in being home to a vast array of native plants.

The two bayous at UHD have always been an inspiration for UHD’s class projects. The new mural along the bayou adds another powerful illustration to communicate the rich wildlife that live along the bayous not only to UHD faculty, staff and students, but to the many Houstonians who enjoy Brays Bayou Greenway Trail.

“I love the combination of science and art always,” Morano said. “We can use facts... and science to inform us, but we already know that data does not move people, art moves people. In order to get people to move, they have to care.” The mural’s name embodies the synergy of the disciplines working together to teach appreciation of wildlife through art and how people can “become part of the solution to creating a more environmentally-sound urban environment.” Morano envisions UHD becoming the next “mecca of urban ecology” by continuing to embrace sustainability in urban spaces.

“Anyone and everyone in our community... intersects with the endeavor of having a community that is in tune with nature,” Houston Audubon’s director of conservation, Richard Gibbons, Ph.D., said during the panel. Planting native plants like hackberry trees, wax myrtle, etc. are “fantastic for wildlife.” He also called the audience to stop planting exotic, invasive species of plants that don’t feed local wildlife.

“If we have a community where birds can thrive, people are also going to do better in that environment,” Gibbons said. “Nature is a perfect signal for whether or not we have a better environment.”

For more information on planting native plants to create bird-friendly gardens, visit Houston Audubon’s website under the tab “Bird Friendly Communities.”

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