At last week's Kenai City Council meeting Mayor Pat Porter presented Kenai Central High School senior Olivia Pfeifer with a commendation from President Barak Obama for outstanding achievement in environmental stewardship and a plaque from the Environmental Protection Agency region #10 as the runner-up in the 2010 President's Environmental Youth Award program.
"The EPA is pleased to present this Presidential recognition to Olivia and those who supported and assisted her in her Airport Bird Control project. You have all made an important contribution to the environmental resources of Alaska," said Sally Hanft Regional President's Environmental Youth Awards Coordinator in a news release.
In her freshman year at KCHS Pheifer won the Caring for the Kenai (CFK) environmental awareness contest sponsored by Chevron and Tesoro with her idea to use a border collie to haze birds from the Kenai Airport rather than euthanize them.
The following year she worked to implement her idea with the help of city officials and local sponsors who helped to fund her project, "It's really interesting because it was three years ago today that I began thinking about my idea for CFK and it exactly the time I started thinking, oh we have a problem with birds at the airport and what could I do about it.
Then the last three years has just been crazy the way it went from an idea, to winning the CFK contest, to becoming a local project to now other companies and airports across the country are talking to me about the use of bird dogs to prevent bird strikes at airports and it has been an amazing journey. It was a lot of work getting the permits and actually putting my idea into practice, but the Kenai City Council was really great to work with and was willing to hire me as a summer employee so that I could handle the dog. I also worked with people at Fish & Wildlife Service to be sure everything was done properly and get an amendment to the hazing permit and everyone was really helpful," said Pheifer in receiving the award.
In the summer of 2010 the Kenai Airport experienced more birds on the runway than ever before and Rose the ABC Dog, as she became known, really earned her pay, "Than this year there actually were fewer birds than before so we are thinking maybe the birds changed their nesting habits because of the work that Rose had done the summer before, it's just a theory, but one that I think would be interesting to pursue," added Pfiefer who will be off to college next year.
She says her Caring for the Kenai project became like an entire high school class for her, "During my freshman and sophomore year CFK was like an entire class, I'd spend an hour on homework and an hour on my CFK project it was like half and half, but it gave me so many opportunities to improve my public speaking, writing skills, and how to work with public officials so it was like taking a whole class about everything from science to government, but if anyone had ever told me that it would lead to a commendation from the President of the United States I would have thought you were crazy and I'm thankful to everyone who has helped make this happen," Pfiefer said in an interview with the Dispatch.