A participatory urban ecology strategy to support beneficial bird populations in urban environments.

Next City Storefront Exhibition _ February 2013
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Toss is: – Habitat for beneficial bird life; – A means of enabling guerilla ecological activism; – An act of climate change protest and adaptation; – A crowd-sourced urban ecological research and design project.

Beneficial Birds
Public health officials expect that malaria, dengue fever and other mosquito-borne illnesses will increase in prevalence and geographic range as a consequence of global climate change. Public health threats from mosquitoes can be mitigated by a design intervention: habitat for the beneficial creatures that serve on the front lines of this potential global health crisis.

Drawing from the urban American practice of throwing pairs of shoes over powerlines, Crookedworks has developed a prototype for habitat for mosquito-eating birds such as Purple Martins, Eurasian Wrens, and Chickadees. Mosquito-eating birds provide critical ecological services to cities and towns, and urban development has traditionally been highly destructive to these species. Toss is a participatory ecological intervention aimed at creating habitat for Martins and other mosquito eating birds.

Crookedworks has developed a DIY version of whimsical, lightweight, rapidly-deployable bird habitat. Our goal is to provide the armature of a bird habitat on which to create a unique skin woven from strands of salvaged materials. In this way, every piece is radically different, while still supporting the specific interior volume and entry conditions nesting birds require.

Completed Toss units can be deployed in the urban environment. Attached to each tiny bird house will be a cord and a weight or another unit, which allows the unit to be chucked into the air and slung around a wire, tree limb or other projecting urban infrastructure.

The project creates unsolicited animal habitat as a means of intervening in both hyper-local and global ecological communities.

In a series of workshops, individuals have built their own Toss unit materials scavenged from the local urban environments. Crookedworks provides tools, materials, advice and a space for collaborative building efforts. The process is simple and open to all ages and skill levels. A single toss unit can be fabricated in less than an hour or can be a labor of love for weeks of meticulous labor.

Toss! was first exhibited with the support of the Jackson Hole Public Art Initiative and the Artemis Institute in the summer of 2012. Crookedworks held the first participatory Toss! workshop with the support of Next City in February of 2013.

At the conclusion of the exhibition, builders were encouraged to reclaim their units and to deploy them in their urban environment. Crookedworks will be gathering data from Toss creators and deployers to learn what kinds of habitat are most effective in supporting beneficial bird populations. Through a web-based platform that will house information on each Toss unit’s location, condition, and habitat use, we are creating a crowd-sourced research project to inform urban ecological design efforts in the future.

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