Good News Thursday: Citizens aid in birdwatching research, Sherpa guide uses savings to feed families

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Ecuador doctors put off wedding to fight COVID-19 pandemic

Ecuadorian doctors David Vallejo and Mavelin Bonilla put their wedding on hold last year to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic. (Dolores Ochoa/AP Photo)

Two Ecuadorian doctors put their wedding on hold last year to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people in southern Quito and beyond were moved by David Vallejo and Mavelin Bonilla’s sacrifice after social media helped spread word of their decision to postpone their May 23, 2020, wedding. 

Within a few months both Vallejo and Bonilla contracted COVID-19. Bonilla’s case was mild, but Vallejo experienced a long-lasting range of complications including facial paralysis and a need to relearn how to walk. Vallejo has since recovered and now plans to marry Bonilla at the end of June in a small wedding ceremony surrounded by a few of their closest family members. 

“Even before this, I always thought you had to value the little things, the little shared moments,” Vallejo said. “Now I believe this more than ever. To go for a walk holding her hand is a great moment for me.”

Nepal Sherpa guide uses savings to feed colleagues’ families

Nepal Sherpa guide Ang Phurba Sherpa is using his savings to help other guides who are out of work during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Bikram Rai/AP Photo)

A Nepal Sherpa guide is using his savings to help other guides out of work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ang Phurba Sherpa is one of tens of thousands of Sherpa guides without work as the Nepal tourism industry has still been shut down by the pandemic and has kept foreign trekkers away from the Himalayas. Sherpa has been loading up rice, lentils, cooking oil and other food staples bought with his own money to deliver to families in Kathmandu. Those helped by Sherpa include not just his fellow guides and their families but a shelter caring for disabled children as well.

“I am trying to help in any way I can because I thought I should give to our community so that guides who are staying idle are getting some help,” Sherpa said. “I am in a difficult situation but I want to help fellow guides and hope they too will come out to help each other.”

Citizens aid scientist in birdwatching research

Georgetown University Ph.D. student Emily Williams holds a catbird in Silver Springs, Maryland. Williams’ research project studying the migration of American robins has gotten a boost from citizen volunteers’ observations. (Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

An ecologist’s research project has gotten a boost from citizen volunteers. Georgetown University Ph.D. student Emily Williams is studying the annual migration of American robins this spring and summer. Her work is aided by enthusiastic homeowners in the Washington, D.C. area who let her place makeshift research stations in their backyard and contribute their own observations. These notes they share include discoveries of robins’ nests, diaries marking the movements of birds through their yards and other details on the birds’ behavior. Some volunteers also share their observations on Cornell University’s birdwatching smartphone app, eBird.

“Maybe you’d have to travel to Alaska or Canada to see a grizzly bear, or go to Africa to see a zebra, but birds are literally right outside your door, anywhere you are in the world,” Williams said. “People have really started to pay more attention to their backyards because they had to stay home so much. I think it’s a huge boon for us as scientists, that more people appreciate birds.”

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