MISSOULA – Earlier this month, University of Montana osprey researchers honored a member of the osprey-cam community by naming the two chicks who are being reared in the Hellgate nest in memory of cyber-community Friends of the Osprey founder Peggy Taylor Miles. The chicks were named Taylor and Miles.
Internet sensations Iris and Stanley, a pair of adult osprey who just began mating last summer, have captured the attention of thousands of viewers from around the world thanks to a high-resolution camera installed by UM researchers. UM’s Department of Geosciences hosts the camera, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology hosts the feed so viewers worldwide can watch these iconic birds.
Taylor Miles was one of those viewers, and she helped start the Facebook group Friends of the Osprey. After a battle with ovarian cancer, Taylor Miles died in March.
“Peggy was a remarkable woman,” UM principal investigators for Project Osprey Eric Greene and Heiko Langner wrote on the Osprey Cam Facebook page. “She loved nature, particularly gardening and birds. She was dedicated to conservation and caring for our world.”
After she passed, her family encouraged donations in lieu of flowers be made in her honor to The Montana Osprey Project – the UM-based research project where the nest cams help researchers observe the birds to learn more about their habits and also study the way mercury moves through the food chain in the Clark Fork River basin.
“We were flooded with donations, many from the tight-knit cyber-community that began with a Facebook page,” said Greene, a professor in UM’s Wildlife Biology Program. “So we wanted to create a formal fund that would ultimately support undergraduate and graduate work on the project.”
Taylor Miles’ legacy will live on with the Peggy Taylor Miles Memorial Fund, which was established with the UM Foundation in her memory and will help sustain research and education on ospreys and aquatic systems.
Because of their top position in the food web, ospreys are useful indicators of local environmental conditions. Young ospreys only eat fish their parents catch within a few miles of the nest, so these young birds reflect the condition of the local fish population, which in turn are indicators of river health.
On Thursday, July 18, Langner will use a roofing-lift vehicle to ascend to the nest to band the chicks and to collect very small blood and feather samples. As a way to honor her mother, Taylor Miles’ oldest daughter Jenne Haynal, and her family will join researchers to collect the samples.
The samples will be analyzed for environmental toxins back in Langner’s laboratory. The UM researchers partner in this effort with Rob Domenech, director of Raptor View Research Institute.
Taylor Miles, 62, was born in Los Angeles and lived in Japan for two years before ultimately settling in Oregon. She married high school sweetheart Mike Taylor in 1970 and together they had three children, Jennifer, Annalisa and Noah. After Mike passed in 2003, she met and married Gene Miles.
To learn more about the Peggy Taylor Miles Memorial Fund call UM Foundation Senior Gift Processing Specialist Patrick McElwain at 406-243-5646. To make a donation online, visit http://cas.umt.edu/geosciences/osprey/donate.php.
To view the 24/7 video feed of Iris, Stanley, Taylor and Miles, visit http://cas.umt.edu/geosciences/osprey/nestCams/hellgate.php.