Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory

See the new Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas webpage at: http://wsobirds.org/atlas

Living the Seven Simple Actions

Bird-safe Coffee

By Jennifer Phillips-Vanderberg
A new year, a new beginning. As you can read in the Spotlight on the Observatory, this is certainly true for the Observatory with the significant expansions of our two pillar projects this year. 
On a personal level, I am trying to live my life more consistently with my values in 2023 (the same goal I have been working on for years), including making the world a better place for birds, pollinators, water, and broadly, the environment. To that end, I want to share my experiences with “Living the 7 Simple Actions,” a new and recurring social media and newsletter series, chronicling my successes and failures in making my life work with bird-friendly actions.  I welcome others to share their experiences as well on Facebook or in future articles. 
As a biologist who is learning behavioral change science, I am trying to capitalize on the Fresh Start Effect, the phenomenon that people are more likely to take action toward a goal after a life or temporal landmark that represents a new beginning. If you aren’t able to build a system that supports this change, it is often hard to maintain, but the Fresh Start Effect can get you going.   To simplify this broad goal for living life, I chose to focus on the Seven Simple Actions to Help BirdsFor those unfamiliar with Cornell University’s Seven Simple Actions to Help Birds, here they are: 

  1. Make Windows Safer, Day and Night
  2. Keep Cats Indoors
  3. Reduce Lawn, Plant Native Plants
  4. Avoid Pesticides (my personal addition: avoid fertilizer)
  5. Drink Coffee That’s Good for Birds
  6. Protect Our Planet from Plastic
  7. Participate in Community Science

My goal for this project is to share struggles we all have with doing the right thing in the real world and to demystify some of the ways we can make it easier and more livable given the constraints we all have.  
I’m deciding to tackle bird-safe coffee first. Who doesn’t love piping hot coffee during these chilly January mornings? Cocoa drinkers, heads up there is bird-friendly certified hot cocoa as well. Tea drinkers, sorry, nothing for you, yet. 
Bird-safe coffee is coffee that has been certified to follow a set of standards developed by the Smithsonian to ensure that the coffee is grown in a way that offers habitat to birds by growing coffee under an overstory of trees, mimicking the layers of natural habitats.
As a student of behavior change science, I started by making a list of what my barriers were to buying bird-friendly coffee. While other folks likely have other barriers, mine came down to a rather basic way I live my life: I go grocery shopping when I run out of food (read as: we only have condiments and cans). I’m not a big planner when it comes to my house. It feels like my brain uses all of its planning power for work, my garden, and my vacations, with little left over to other things, like making sure we have food to survive and forecasting when we will need our next bag of coffee. 
This is a problem when it comes to the typical ways of finding bird-friendly coffee. Pull up any bird-friendly coffee website and it gives you lists of where you can buy coffee online unless you are one of the lucky few that have a local retailer (none are listed in Wisconsin on the Smithsonian’s Map). Instead, there are an overwhelming number of options, all days to weeks away. That is not going to cut it for my just-in-time style of shopping. 
So, what’s a busy but motivated bird-nerd going to do? Be “that” person that everyone avoids at local grocery stores (of course). I sat down on the floor of the Meijer coffee aisle and looked at every single bag of coffee to see if any had the Bird Friendly Seal, a certification offered by the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. My husband would not support me in this this step and wandered away, while pretending not to know me. Forty bags in, I found one (Café Fair for only $8.99, well within the range of other “premium coffees”). 
Combined with curbside pick-up, bird-friendly coffee has become a part of my busy life that doesn’t need much thought or planning, addressing my primary barrier. For anyone considering making the switch to bird-friendly coffee, think about the barriers keeping you from doing it- lack of knowledge, hassle of getting it, cost, etc. These barriers are specific to you and can be anything (no judgement). Then think about how you can address them. Without addressing them, it is difficult and more taxing mentally to make changes and turn the Fresh Start Effect into long-term change. 
I would like to offer a challenge to our readers: Find stores that carry bird-friendly coffee on their shelves. So far, I have found Festival Foods, Meijer, and Sendik’s. We are going to make a map to share stores where you can immediately pick up bird-friendly coffee. Still, we need more options before we do that.  On Monday, January 16, we will be posting a call for all bird-friendly coffee locations to be on Facebook. Please add any you know of. Together we can lower the barriers to drinking bird-friendly coffee!

We're Hiring!

Snip20221226 91

The Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory, Inc., an independent 501(c)(3) research, conservation, and advocacy organization is seeking an Outreach & Partnership Coordinator and a Development Specialist. 

The application deadline for the Outreach & Partnership Coordinator is January 15, 2023. The application deadline for the Development Specialist is January 31. 

The complete job descriptions are available in the below PDFs. 



To apply please send a cover letter and three professional references to .

Photo by Joel Trick

Love Our Great Lakes Day

port harbor18 17


Just how important are the Great Lakes? Join us for a full day of exploring the many ways in which Lake Michigan, and all the Great Lakes, impact our daily lives. This year, three outstanding professionals involved in different aspects of water policy will bring clarity to what it is, why we need it, and the impact it has on the future.

Attendance is free, but registration is required. 



  • 8:45 AM Registration/Refreshments/Booths
  • 9:15 AM Welcome (Tom Mlada, LNRP)
  • 9:30 AM Melissa Scanlan: Water Management and Policy Resources
  • 10:00 AM Break/Booths
  • 10:10 AM Bill Davis: Implementing Wisconsin's Water Agenda
  • 10:40 AM Break/Booths
  • 10:50 AM Tim Ehlinger: Navigating Community and Conflict in Water Policy
  • 11:20 AM Wrap-up
  • Lunch Break
  • 12 PM Newport Shores Rooftop Tour
  • 1:00 & 2:30 PM Afternoon Field Site Visits


We are offering both in-person and online virtual options to hear presentations from 9:30– 11:30 AM. There is an impressive slate of speakers on the important topic of water policy and time for Q & A after each presentation. There will also be info tables from conservation organizations to let you know how they are working towards improved water quality in our area.

Susan Bence, Program Moderator

Susan Bence

Susan began her radio journalism career in 2008 after twenty years working in the nonprofit health field. Susan studied journalism at University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, interned at Milwaukee Public Radio and was then invited to join the news team. In 2009 she was asked to take on environmental reporting, becoming WUWM's first beat reporter. Susan has received multiple awards for her work, including from the Milwaukee Press Club and the Midwest Broadcast Journalists Association.

Melissa Scanlon

melissa scanlan 300 350

Presentation Title: Water Management and Policy Resources

Presentation Description: 

Fifty years ago, Wisconsin was one of a handful of states Professor Joseph Sax examined in his seminal article on the public trust doctrine because “[t]he Supreme Court of Wisconsin has probably made a more conscientious effort to rise above rhetoric and to work out a reasonable meaning for the public trust doctrine than have the courts of any other state.” Joseph L. Sax, The Public Trust Doctrine in Natural Resource Law: Effective Judicial Intervention, 68 MICH. L. REV. 471, 509 (1970). Because Wisconsin has been on the forefront of developing the legal doctrine, an empirical study of how Wisconsin’s trustees are implementing the law illustrates the tensions and structures that impede or enhance public trust protections and may be relevant to those facing similar situations in other states.

This Article provides legal and policy analysis coupled with qualitative research interviews with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) water managers, elected officials, and the regulated community. As the third set of interviews with agency trustees of the state’s waters conducted over the past two decades, this latest round of research is set within the context of significant legislative loosening of state water laws and reforms in state administrative law.

Throughout the United States, there have been numerous efforts to reform the administrative state. Reform efforts have focused on streamlining legislative and executive branch processes and reducing burdens on the regulated community. Such a reform effort gathered steam in Wisconsin, culminating in the passage of Act 21 in the state’s 2011-12 legislative session. With close to a decade of application of this law, there have been divergent interpretations of its meaning by two of Wisconsin’s attorneys general and several court decisions. In 2021 the Wisconsin Supreme Court settled that Act 21 did not eliminate DNR’s ability to implement its explicit, yet broad, public trust duties; however, the research interviews show that Act 21 has had a substantial impact on the DNR. From this fuller understanding of the law’s impact, one can assess and craft administrative reforms that are narrowly tailored to accomplish goals set by the political branches.


Melissa K. Scanlan is the Lynde B. Uihlein Endowed Chair in Water Policy and the Director of the Center for Water Policy at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences. She is a Professor in the School of Freshwater Sciences and affiliated faculty at UW-Madison Law School.

 She was the co-lead consultant in launching the Center for Water Policy, which she started directing in 2021. She has shaped public policy in areas ranging from the Great Lakes Compact and water supply issues to enforcement and implementation of the Clean Water Act and the public trust doctrine. During that time, her peers selected her as a Wisconsin Super Lawyers' Rising Star (2006, 2007, and 2008).

Bill Davis

bill davis

Presentation Title: Thinking like a watershed– A proposed comprehensive watershed-based management structure

Presentation Description: 

If we want to protect our health and economy we need a better way to manage our water resources. River Alliance has initiated the Wisconsin Water Agenda. In defining a new path to clean water. The Core Team identified 12 elements for clean water in Wisconsin. Bill Davis will introduce the 12 goals of the agenda and provide inspiration on how to operationalize within your own watersheds to support clean water throughout the state. 

1. Embrace a single, statewide goal

2. Strengthen our statewide value for water

3. Engage ALL stakeholders and be inclusive

4. Manage water as it exists in nature

5. Prevent threats to people, plants, and wildlife

6. Connect benefits and harm

7. Emphasize education about water for all ages

8. Focus on causes of issue, not the symptoms

9. Regenerate and restore

10. Be sufficiently funded

11. Adapt and be flexible

12. Generate knowledge to solve problem



Bill Davis is the senior legal analyst at River Alliance. With over 30 years of experience, Bill works to advance new water policy and strategy during a critical time for Wisconsin’s waters.

Before joining River Alliance, Bill worked on environmental policy at the state and regional level including stints as Executive Director of Wisconsin’s Environmental Decade (now Clean Wisconsin), Citizens for a Better Environment and the State Environmental Leadership Program. Bill has an undergraduate degree in Wildlife Ecology and a Law degree, both from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Tim Ehlinger


Presentation Title: Navigating Community and Conflict in Water Policy

Presentation Description: how we can Engage friction as a generative force to help make a smoother surface


Timothy Ehlinger, PhD, William Collins Kohler Chair in Systems Change and Peacebuilding and associate professor at UW-Milwaukee.

As a behavioral evolutionary ecologist, Dr. Ehlinger’s early work focused on how species adapt to environmental change. Since arriving at UWM in 1990, his laboratory and students have been involved in numerous projects to restore damaged rivers, lakes and streams; these projects demonstrated that successful, sustainable restoration requires the cultivation of interconnections within social-ecological-economic-cultural systems that serve in turn to develop shared understandings and an adaptive learning community among diverse stakeholders.


Sign up for as many activities as you would like. There is a 15-minute transition time between locations. These outdoor activities take place in Port Washington from noon – 4:15 p.m.

12 – 1 p.m. Tour the Newport Shores rooftop restaurant and pub space and take in the breathtaking views of Port Washington.

1:00 & 2:30pm Tours all repeat

Valley Creek Corridor with Melissa Curran and Jon Crain 

Geological history of bluff at North Beach Park and current issues facing erosion. 

Stream Remeandering – Mineral Springs with Andrew Struck