Sylvan Heights Bird Park, ECU Announce Formal Collaboration

Sylvan Heights Bird Park and East Carolina University officials have approved a formal collaboration to boost interdisciplinary research alliances and preserve endangered waterfowl.

The collaboration allows both parties to support their organizational missions through developing, promoting and implementing mutually beneficial projects and activities.

Sylvan Heights and ECU will use their alliance to combat global challenges and encourage interdisciplinary research. The collaboration will focus on preserving endangered species and conserving their habitats in addition to projects focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education and related work.

Sylvan Heights Bird Park board of directors chairman Don Butler (from left), Sylvan Heights executive director and founder Mike Lubbock, and East Carolina University vice chancellor for research, economic development and engagement Jay Golden celebrate after signing a collaboration agreement between Sylvan Heights and ECU. (ECU News Services)

The deal allows ECU to create a research facility, ECU at Sylvan Heights, at the bird park in Scotland Neck. The facility catalyzes joint endeavors between the park and the academic community by: advancing community-based conservation of waterfowl and wetlands, both domestically and abroad; providing practical, hands-on learning opportunities for ECU students across majors and disciplines; advancing the development of aviculturists, biologists, educators, researchers and scientists; and furthering scientific research and discovery at a world-class facility that houses more than 2,000 waterfowl, toucans, flamingos and other exotic birds from around the world.

“The announcement of this collaborative working relationship between ECU and Sylvan Heights is a very important and exciting development,” said Don Butler, chairman of the board of directors at Sylvan Heights Bird Park. “This agreement will be mutually beneficial to ECU and Sylvan Heights and will provide unique opportunities to engage and prepare the next generation of avian conservationists to help save the waterfowl of the world.”

In the past, ECU and Sylvan Heights teamed up to advance scientific discovery through a number of research projects, including National Science Foundation-funded research conducted at the park. The pair have also collaborated to provide student internships, offer a lecture series by ECU graduate students, host Earth Day events and introduce Pitt County students to the bird park through ECU’s Biodiversity Initiative.

“This is an exciting opportunity to catapult ECU into a space rarely occupied by academic institutions,” said Jay Golden, vice chancellor for research, economic development and engagement at ECU. “No other program across the country has a formal collaboration such as this. We see opportunities for student projects and faculty research that extend into all facets of our university, including science, engineering, computing, business, social science and the humanities. Sylvan Heights provides the university with a rich set of opportunities to explore.”

Sylvan Heights Bird Park’s mission of educating the next generation of waterfowl conservationists will continue at ECU this October with the 2018 Waterfowl Conservation Workshop. The event is designed to foster collaboration between conservationists, biologists and aviculturists specializing in wild waterfowl. Sylvan Heights and ECU will also explore the potential for student assistantships and research projects focusing on wetland restoration, renewable energy and the conservation of endangered international waterfowl.

For more information on Sylvan Heights Bird Park, visit For more information on ECU, visit

About Sylvan Heights Bird Park

Located in Scotland Neck, Sylvan Heights Bird Park is internationally recognized for its contributions to waterfowl conservation, avian husbandry and avicultural training. Opened in 2006, the 28-acre facility is a significant driver of local economic development, annually receiving more than 50,000 visitors. In conjunction with its adjacent Sylvan Heights Avian Breeding Center, the bird park encompasses the largest and most biologically significant collection of waterfowl in the world, supplying birds to zoos and aviaries around the globe. Sylvan Heights also serves at the headquarters of the International Wild Waterfowl Association, a group dedicated to preserving all 234 taxa of wild waterfowl.