Call of the wild at UB Law

Ruth Bader Gooseburg.


Release date: May 15, 2019

“It’s a teachable moment on human responsibilities to wildlife with which we share space and a planet. ”
Aviva Abramovsky, Dean and Professor
UB School of Law


Ruth Bader Gooseburg is not the only star on campus. Watch Dixie, UB's peregrine falcon, and her recently hatched chicks on UB's Falcon Cam.

There’s a new episode in the ongoing balance between wildlife and life at UB: The Canada goose who returns to take up residence each spring at the School of Law now — because of an upcoming internationally known guest —has a catchy name.

“Ruth Bader Gooseburg,” as she is now known in honor of the Aug. 26 visit to campus of U.S. Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, spent more than three weeks protecting her eggs in a concrete planter in the atrium outside the Cellino and Barnes Conference Center on the fifth floor of O’Brian Hall, home of the law school.

Her every move was noted by the abiding and faithful father goose watching from above. Resident goose scholars from the law school point out that geese mate for life and typically return to places they have hatched eggs before. Goslings usually hatch between Day 25 and 28, they say.

The mother’s daily activities — which after the nest was spruced up, has primarily been to sit on her eggs waiting for them to hatch — were streamed live for the first time this year on a “Goose Cam” set up by the school’s Information Technology Department.

But that all changed when R.B. Gooseburg’s eggs hatched Tuesday, according to Kim Diana Connolly, professor and director of clinical legal education and vice dean for advocacy and experiential education. Connolly’s responsibilities include serving as director of UB’s Animal Law Clinic, whose offices are appropriately located adjacent to the atrium.

A team of experts from the Wildlife Department of SPCA Serving Erie County arrived at O’Brian on Wednesday to quietly relocate mother and her goslings to Lake LaSalle, Connolly says. Ruth went through a similar move last year when she gave birth to babies in the same concrete planter outside the same faculty lounge.

“It’s amazing,” says Connolly, who because of interests and expertise in animal law and policy and administrative aegis has found herself one of the goose family’s champions and a spokesperson. “We have a terrific law school team that has brought food and water to the momma goose for weeks. Upon release, her goslings just go into the water. Depending on the weather, 1-to-2-day-old geese can walk, swim, feed and even dive. These animals typically go on to live between 10-24 years in the wild.”

The abrupt move from outside UB’s Clinical Legal Education office to Lake LaSalle comes by necessity, according to Connolly, who points out that while UB’s animal law clinic is one of a dozen experiential animal law courses across the country, students usually don’t work on issues related to Canada geese.

“The babies need to be somewhere they can start eating and swimming and other things baby goslings need to do to grow and become healthy geese,” Connolly says. “They can’t live in the concrete planter she is using. That’s not conducive to growing strong and healthy.”

Ruth Bader Gooseburg has some powerful friends. First, there’s Aviva Abramovsky, dean and professor of law.

“Having the opportunity to see wildlife take refuge in the law school warms us all,” says Abramovsky, who with the help of the school’s “great” Information Technology Department, authorized the Goose Cam. The Dean’s Office also made the connection to what will be one of the year’s major events for the school and named the goose for its esteemed August guest.

“Life finds a way,” she says. “It’s a teachable moment on human responsibilities to wildlife with which we share space and a planet."

“We are happy to have expanded our UB family to include these beautiful wild creatures,” says Abramovsky, who told School of Law confidantes that her own mother watched the Goose Cam. “Mama Goose, thank you for choosing O'Brian Hall — year after year!”

Abramovsky’s stewardship joins with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which protects Canada geese and other water fowl. Anyone foolish or insensitive enough to harm these birds may be held liable under that law, Connolly says.

This is the third year a goose that law school staff believe is the same one has chosen the O’Brian concrete planter as her nest. The school heralded her arrival in a tweet on the UB Law Clinics’ Twitter page.

“Welcome to the @UBSchoolofLaw’s “Goose Cam," where momma goose, Ruth Bader Gooseburg, is sitting on her eggs in the School of Law’s 5th floor atrium and is due to hatch any time,” the tweet announced. “Ruth Bader Gooseburg is a Canada Goose. #goosecam2019 @UBuffalo”

The geese certainly have been the subject of conversation at all levels of the law school’s staff and hierarchy. Connolly and Abramovsky hope the word and lessons will spread.

“It’s interesting when these birds, who many people view as pests, have a chance to demonstrate the start to their life cycle before our eyes,” says Connolly. “This committed couple found a safe place to build their nest, which happens to be in the law school atrium, and this week the goslings will quickly begin youthful activities in the lake on campus.

“To watch the gestation process in the midst of life in the law school puts some things in perspective,” she says. “People think it’s cute and fun; students, alums and wildlife enthusiasts have enjoyed watching our Goose Cam.

“It is graduation time here at UB, and just like our students, the goslings are about to leave and begin the next phase of their life. And then, the law school will almost certainly see a new group of goslings next year.”

global goals.

Sustainable Development Goals:

15. Life on land: Managing forests and terrestrial ecosystems, while combating desertification, land degradation and biodiversity loss in a sustainable way