LightHawk’s mission is flying to save the earth


LightHawk, our current Natural World beneficiary, utilizes the unique perspective of flight to advance the conservation efforts of their many partner organizations. LightHawk "mobilizes volunteer pilots, photographers, environmental experts, and storytellers to make images, collect data, inform the public and share their experiences about some of our environment's most critical issues, landscapes, and wildlife."  The goal of these flight missions is to promote conservation conversations within the community and to provide LightHawk's partners with valuable data and video and/or photographic evidence to enable informed decision-making.

LightHawk was able to fly nine missions in the month of January. Here are the highlights from three of those missions, as described on the LightHawk website.

One of their missions took place in Florida, partnering with Audubon's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.  Volunteer pilot Alan Kinback took the helm for this flight. This LightHawk flight enabled the Corkscrew Swamp Audubon staff to assess remote locations in the wetlands of Florida. Audubon staff have been monitoring the Corkscrew Wood Stork colony throughout the nesting season, which is December to May, since the Sanctuary was established in the late 1950s.  Audubon now uses aerial photography of the colony to obtain more accurate counts and to provide the opportunity to accurately count chicks and estimate age.

Outcome: Audubon was able to monitor all sites and may have spotted a new sub-colony of nesting Wood Storks.

A second mission took place in Santa Cruz, California with partner organization Sempervirens Fund.  This mission was flown by volunteer pilot Ken Newbury and was at first scheduled to facilitate public awareness of the Sempervirens' campaign to protect the Cotoni-Coast area. The night before the flight, however, President Obama designated the area a National Monument, allowing the next day's LightHawk flight to gather the very first pictures of the new National Monument. The diverse and beautiful Coast Dairies property spans six watersheds and encompasses 5,800 acres of coastal prairies, redwood forests, riparian canyons and grazing lands. Its precious natural, cultural, historic, scenic and recreational values are now protected.

Outcome: Santa Cruz Sentinel photographer Dan Coyro captured the very first images of the newly designated national monument, a huge win for LightHawk's partners at the Sempervirens Fund.

Another mission was flown by volunteer pilot Cory West in Wyoming in cooperation with another one of LightHawk's partner organizations, the Teton Raptor Center. This LightHawk flight allowed the Teton Raptor Center to locate several banded Great Gray Owls through aerial telemetry equipment. Currently, there is very little information about this iconic species. The data gathered on this flight will allow our the Center to better understand juvenile owl seasonal movements, mortality, and dispersal.

Outcome: Two of the six targeted owls were located, allowing our the Teton Raptor Center to better understand their winter range and habitat.

To stay informed about LightHawk's exciting missions and their outcomes, you can follow them on Twitter or Facebook, or follow their blog.

LightHawk was a Foundation Beyond Belief Natural World beneficiary in 2013. They received a repeat grant of $9100 in the first quarter of 2016.