Here at BYOU Magazine, we love to feature girls who are making a difference, especially girls making a difference in the environment. Since today is Earth Day, we’re excited to share an exclusive interview we did with Girl Scout Ambassador from Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, Annie Vitti, an environmental activist who is a role model to all. BYOU Magazine caught up with the 18-year-old Illinois native about her passion for birds and how she took that passion and channeled it for good in her Girl Scout Gold Award Project (see below…Annie even offers tips how YOU can be a role model environmental activist too!)
Annie Vitti took to preserving the lives of the protected bird species Chimney Swifts after seeing a group circling the chimney of her house. She educated herself on the species and found out that the population of the chimney swifts has been declining since the 1990s. To help the Chimney Swifts, Annie built a 12-foot wooden tower as a safe home for the birds in a local forest preserve in order to earn her Girl Scout Gold Award. Learn more about Annie and her project below!
Check out Annie’s Q & A with BYOU Magazine:
BYOU: Where did your passion for chimney swifts come from?
ANNIE: I’ve always loved nature and recently, I have gotten into birding. One day last summer, I looked up in the sky and these strange birds were flying around my chimney. I was able to identify them and then proceeded to then look them up. I discovered how incredibly unique Chimney Swifts are and that they are in need of human support. There is something special about Chimney Swifts that just attract me and others to them. They are not like any other bird I have ever seen. What makes them even more important is that Chimney Swifts are insectivores and eat up to one third of their body weight every day in flying insects like mosquitos and biting flies.
BYOU: What did you do for your Gold Award project?
ANNIE: For my Gold Award project, I built a Chimney Swift tower. Chimney Swifts are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which is an international agreement between four countries to protect migratory birds. Chimney Swifts used to live in old hollow trees, then learned to live in manmade structures like chimneys. But, now, people are capping chimneys to keep animals out, tearing down old masonry chimneys or replacing chimneys with a new metal flue that are harmful to Chimney Swifts. The tower gives them a reliable and safe place to sleep, nest and breed. The Chimney Swift tower I built is over fifteen feet tall. For the second part of my project, I did presentations to various organizations about building the tower and Chimney Swifts. My goal was to inspire them to take action and help the cause. I have already been asked to help build a tower at a Boy Scout camp!
BYOU: Do you feel passionate about other environmental issues?
ANNIE: I am pretty passionate about many environmental and animal issues. I am certified by the South Carolina DNR to work with Loggerhead Sea Turtles and my work with on the beach has taught me a lot about how little humans know about the environment. I’ve learned that people want to help the environment and animals, but are not sure exactly how to do it. I feel like it is my job to teach people about the environment and animals, so that they might gain respect for this beautiful planet we live on.
BYOU: What is your opinion of the current state of the environment?
ANNIE: I believe that Earth is in danger. Many species are going extinct and global warming is heating our planet. This is extremely scary, but I believe that there is still hope. Everyone needs to help. Countries and large businesses need to be mindful of the environment when they are creating new laws and regulations. We can’t wait for someone else to act. The youth of today need to be the change.
ANNIE SHARES TIPS TO HELP PROTECT OUR ENVIRONMENT:
- Always be open to learn. You never know what you can discover. There is so much about Earth that we don’t know and we are destroying it before we can discover it.
- If you ever find a hurt/ stranded animal, don’t touch it. Instead, before going hiking or doing something outside, look up local animal rescue or closest nature center’s phone number and have it with you. And never approach the animal. It can scare the animal, which can cause harm to the creature or you.
- Reduce your waste.When you are at a restaurant, ask your waiter to not put a straw in your glass. If you have leftovers, ask for tinfoil instead of using a styrofoam box, or bring your own boxes or containers. When shopping, try to use less bags or bring reusable bags to carry your “treasures” in. I challenge you to look around and see what you can reuse or you don’t need.
- Stay active. There are tons of nature related causes that are going on every year. Last fall, Columbia, South Carolina had incredible flooding. I contacted the director to Carolina Wildlife Center, which helps injured animals. I talked to people at my school and started a fundraiser to help the center. Animals and the environment are also victims and we need to help after a natural or manmade disaster. CLICK HERE FOR MORE TIPS
BYOU: What are your plans for the future? Will you stay active in supporting environmental/animal issues?
ANNIE: My plans for next year is go to to a small liberal arts school and study biology and environmental science. I hope to then go to graduate school and earn a doctorates in animal behavior. I have always known that I wanted to work with animals when I grew up, but once I learned about Jane Goodall and how she studies chimpanzees, I knew I wanted to do research in the wild, too. My goal is not only work with animals, but also the environment that they live in. I would love to work as a park ranger while I am still in school. To be completely honest, I am not sure where I’ll end up or exactly I will be doing. But, I do know that if I somehow end up doing anything with animals or the environment, I will be living a life that I could only dream of as a little girl.
To learn about the other cool project of Girl Scout Gold Award honorees, check out these inspiring girls!
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