Speakers Biographies

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Cullen Hanks is a Texas Nature Tracker Biologist in the Wildlife Diversity Program at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. He grew up in Texas with a love for natural history and outdoor adventure. Cullen earned a BA in biology from Cornell University, and a MA in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. In his masters, he focused on issues relating to biodiversity conservation and conducted research on the economics of the wildlife trade. Cullen has extensive experience with the collection and management of data on rare and threatened species. He is very passionate about being a naturalist and the contribution of the naturalist community to conservation. Cullen lives in Austin, Texas with his wife. To learn more about the Texas Nature Trackers Program go to www.tpwd.texas.gov/tracker


Dorian Anderson
Dorian Anderson
started birding at age 7 in the Greater Philadelphia region. Not sure what to do a bird-obsessed child, his non-birder parents decided to encourage whatever interest would keep him out of the house, and perhaps more importantly, out of trouble (this failed miserably anyway). Family trips to the Jersey Shore as a pre-teen proved particularly formative, and attendance at a number of youth birding camps west of the Mississippi bolstered the interest.
For a number of years, birding was forced to take a backseat to his education. He studied Cellular and Molecular Biology. A Ph.D. in Developmental Genetics at NYU was the next stop on the degree carousel. It was during these New York City years, that the long-dormant birding gene was again activated. The newly revived interest moved with him to Boston when he accepted a Post-doctoral position at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. It was during these Boston years, 2011-2013, that a serious interest in bird photography also developed and the idea of birding across the USA by bike was hatched.

Talk – Biking for Birds : 365 days, 18,000 miles, 617 species 1 amazing adventure?
As 2012 came to a close, Dorian Anderson decided he no longer wanted to run the academic research race. Drawing on his bird interest, he conceived a plan, to attempt the first solo, continent wide, North American bicycle Big Year. The goals of the trip were threefold: find as many birds as possible, raise awareness about environmentally sustainable travel, and personally challenge himself in new ways. After a year of planning, Anderson departed a frozen Massachusetts on Jan 1, 2014 for what turned out to be the adventure of a lifetime.

In the next 365 days, Anderson biked 17,830 miles through 28 states. He found 617 species, and he raised close to $50,000 for habitat conservation and bird-related programing. This was all accomplished using just a bicycle. He did not get into a car, plane, train, or powered boat for the entire year – for birding or for any other purpose. His talk will highlight the birds he saw during his incredible journey, and it will also draw from the bottomless well of stories that was bicycling around America. His unique blend of birds, biking, environment, adventure, and humor should not be missed.


Greg Miller

Greg Miller was one of three persons to see more than 700 species in 1998 in North America. Pulitzer Prize winning Denver Post writer Mark Obmascik documented their stories in his 2004 nonfiction book, The Big Year. The book was converted to a Hollywood movie which was released in 2011 and starred Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson. Greg was portrayed by the Jack Black character. He was also the Bird Consultant for the movie. Greg is currently a member of the American Birding Association’s Recording Standards and Ethics Committee and is an active tour guide for Wildside Nature Tours.

Talk – The Next Big Thing for Birding
Field Guides have empowered birders for years by making valuable identification information available in a format that is easy to use in the field. Field guides have been responsible for a surge in the popularity of birding. They have transformed how we bird. eBird is a Citizen Science project that stores birders’ checklists from around the world in an online database. There are currently over 16 million checklists in this database for North America alone. But how can this help a birder? Many birders are faced with more demanding schedules that allow them less free time. How can a birder make the most out of smaller window of time? The free, online Impatient Birder’s Guide to North America is a good place to start. Your field guides help you with identification. The Impatient Birder’s Guide will help you with the where and when in planning a birding adventure. I believe it will transform how we bird in the future just like the introduction of field guides changed birding in the past.


Homer Hansen grew up in Willcox, Arizona surrounded by Sandhill Cranes in winter
and Cassin’s Sparrows in summer. Homer has a passion for sharing bird watching
with others and is a regular field trip leader for several festivals and served
as chairman of the Wings Over Willcox Birding & Nature Festival for 17 years.
Homer is also co-founder of the Sulphur Springs Valley Young Birders Club and
the annual Arizona Young Birders Camp. He instructs workshops on sparrows,
raptors, flycatchers, warblers, birding by ear, and bird ecology, including:
the Lifelong Learning courses for the Tucson Audubon Society, the Southwestern
Sparrows IFO for the American Birding Association, and educational workshops
for the Western Field Ornithologists (WFO) conferences. Homer is a life member
of the WFO, Cooper Ornithological Society (COS), and Wilson Ornithological
Society (WOS), and currently serves on the WFO board as chairman of the Youth
Programs Committee.


–Ian Davies works at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology as the Project Coordinator for eBird (ebird.org), a free global database of bird sightings that is used by birdwatchers, researchers, and conservationists worldwide. More than 335 million sightings of birds from every country on earth are available for free use by anyone, contributed by more than 315,000 birdwatchers like you. Ian got interested in birds at age 13 when he visited a banding station and released a Canada Warbler. He has been lost to the feathered world ever since. He enjoys traveling to find birds, making sure to collect information on the birds seen through eBird and sharing those resources with birding communities worldwide. He has visited more than 30 countries in the pursuit of birds so far, and looks forward to continuing to explore the amazing natural world that we live in.

Birding in the 21st Century
Automatic identification of photos on your smartphone. Tools to find birds anywhere in the world, at your fingertips, all for free. Want to know where to find your next lifers, and how to plan your next birding trip with ease? Technology is advancing so rapidly that it’s now possible to build tools for birdwatchers that weren’t even fathomable only a couple years ago. Sightings and photographs submitted by birders like you around the world help build the future of birding, while also providing incredibly valuable information for researchers and conservationists—giving back to the birds that we all care so much about. Come learn about eBird and Merlin, two free projects that can help you find and learn about birds like never before. Even if you’ve used eBird and Merlin before, this is an opportunity to learn how to get the most out of the free tools that the Cornell Lab has to offer.


Kevin_DaleKevin Karlson is an accomplished birder, professional tour leader and wildlife photographer who has published many bird and nature related articles for magazines, books, and journals over the last 20 years. He is a regular presence at Bird and Nature festivals in North America, where he gives keynote presentations and workshops on bird identification and appreciation, as well as photo instruction. His photos can be seen in numerous locations, including his website kevintkarlson.com. Kevin is a co-author of The Shorebird Guide (Houghton Mifflin Co. 2006), and the author/photographer of a two photography books titled The Birds of Cape May and Visions: Earth’s Elements in Bird and Nature Photography (Schiffer Publishing, 2010, 2012). His most recent book with wife and co-author Dale Rosselet, Birding by Impression: A Different Approach to Knowing and Identifying Birds was released in May 2015 in the Roger Tory Peterson Reference Series at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers.

Kevin recently produced four photographic laminated foldout guides for Quick Reference Publishing of Florida (Raptors of Eastern and Western North America (2012), Waterfowl of North America (2013) and Shorebirds of North America (2014). A former photo editor for North American Birds, he also wrote the Birder’s ID column and served as an Advisory Board member for Wild Bird Magazine from 1992 – 2012. He currently leads several bird tours each year and a birding cruise with Dale Rosselet for Carefree Birding of Florida to six countries (www.carefreebirding.com).

Dale Rosselet is vice president for education for New Jersey Audubon and oversees the statewide public and school-based education programs as well as the organization’s center operations. She has extensive experience teaching children and adults in both classroom and informal education settings for over 30 years. In her capacity with New Jersey Audubon she has authored and co-authored four natural history curriculum guides as well as the book Wild Journeys: Migration in New Jersey. She is past president for the Alliance for New Jersey Environmental Education and chairs the governor-appointed New Jersey Commission for Environmental Education. She has received the 2012 Women in Wildlife Award as well as the Pat Kane Lifetime Achievement Award in Environmental Education. She is a co-author of Birding by Impression: A Different Approach to Knowing and Identifying Birds (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015) with her husband Kevin Karlson.

Talk – Birding by Impression: A Different Approach to Knowing and Identifying Birds
This keynote talk shares a new slant to field identification that Kevin Karlson and his co-author and wife Dale Rosselet call Birding by Impression: A Different Approach to Knowing and Identifying Birds, which is the title of their new book in the Roger Tory Peterson Reference Series at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers (April 2015). The topic of this multi-media presentation includes a more holistic approach to birding that involves right and left brain strengths to enhance your birding skills as well as a greater awareness of bird’s behavior and natural history rather than just a check on your personal list. A short description of Birding by Impression is followed by unique digitized or real life photos from their new book that encourages the audience to spot differences between similar species in direct side-by-side comparison. This exciting ID approach concentrates on basic impressions of size, body shape, structural features and motion to form an accurate first impression of birds, with analysis of plumage details and bare parts to follow. Several videos and a musical ending allow for a relaxed appreciation of the beauty and intriguing nature of birds.

Workshop – Birding by Impression: A Different Approach to Knowing and Identifying Birds
This interactive outdoor workshop shares a new slant to field identification that Kevin Karlson and his co-author and wife Dale Rosselet call Birding by Impression: A Different Approach to Knowing and Identifying Birds, which is the title of their new book in the Roger Tory Peterson Reference Series at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers (April 2015). This exciting ID approach concentrates on basic unchangeable impressions of size, body shape, structural features and motion to form an initial accurate impression of birds seen in the field, with analysis of plumage details and bare parts to follow. The result is a more comprehensive, holistic ID conclusion that is personal to each individual. A similar approach was used in Kevin’s best selling book, The Shorebird Guide (Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006). The “Knowing” aspect of the title involves a sharing of natural history and behavioral information about birds that we are seeing, which leads to a better appreciation of their lives as fascinating members of our world rather than just a check on your list.

Workshop – Shorebirds by Impression: Indoor
This short indoor workshop presents an alternate approach to shorebird identification that relies on an initial evaluation of physical features to form an accurate foundation for your ID conclusion before analyzing feather details or plumage patterns. By concentrating on the size, body shape and structural features of each bird, a reliable assessment of each species is formed, unaffected by the many plumage conditions possible during the year for most shorebirds. Conscious evaluation of distinctive body motion and behavior for each species further enhances your ability to really “know” shorebirds. A similar approach was given in Kevin’s popular book “The Shorebird Guide”, published by Houghton Mifflin Co. in 2006. Digitized comparison photos of similar, hard-to-identify species are included in this program to allow participants to see for themselves how a combination of subtle structural differences and analysis of plumage details results in a more complete ID picture. Some of the comparison photos include dowitchers, large and small plovers, Western and Semipalmated sandpipers and the two willets.

Workshop – Shorebirds/Birding by Impression Indoor
This interactive indoor workshop shares a different approach to field identification that Kevin calls Birding by Impression, A Different Approach to Knowing and Identifying Birds, which is the title of his and Dale Rosselet’s forthcoming book in the Roger Tory Peterson Reference Series (April 2015). Covering shorebirds and other bird families, comparative digitized photos from their new book encourage the audience to spot differences between similar species in direct side-by-side views. This exciting ID approach concentrates initially on basic impressions of size, shape and behavior to form an accurate mental picture of each bird seen in the field. A similar approach was used in Kevin’s popular book, The Shorebird Guide (Houghton Mifflin Co., 2006). The first half of the program concentrates on shorebirds, while the second half covers other bird family groups. Test your birding and observation skills by attending this workshop and guessing the correct species using pertinent ID tips that contribute to your opinion.

Workshop – Shorebird by Impression: Outdoor
This hands-on workshop concentrates on a different approach to shorebird identification that focuses initially on unchangeable physical features. Kevin will share his experience in building a foundation for shorebird ID using basic impressions of size, shape, structural features and behavior before adding details of plumage and feather patterns to fine tune your ID conclusion. This workshop is suitable for birders of all levels, but will sometimes include advanced ID tips that allow beginners to see what lies ahead in their personal ID evolution. Kevin’s book “The Shorebird Guide” (2006) is an example of this different approach to shorebird ID.


Shawneen_FinneganShawneen Finnegan a native of Palo Alto, California, Shawneen began birding in her mid-twenties. She was immediately passionate about bird identification. Her birding career included leading and managing tours for WINGS; Photo Editor for Birding Magazine; and Associate Naturalist for Cape May Bird Observatory. She has served on four different state bird records committees and is on the ABA Records Standards and Ethics Committee. Shawneen is an accomplished bird artist. For 24 years Shawneen managed the BirdArea database used by BirdBase and AviSys. She is an eBird reviewer; gives keynotes; and teaches workshops about bird identification, how to draw birds, and more.

Talk – Birders do crazy things.
Chasing rarities or, better yet, finding a rare life bird is even more intoxicating. Join Shawneen Finnegan as she shares tales that include her own discovery of a Yellow-nosed Albatross that flew past her as she was driving up the Garden State Parkway, which made ABC’s World News Tonight. Who but a birder would take a vacation that included planned visits to dumps and sewage ponds hundreds if not thousands of miles from home? If a bird is rare enough, it suddenly becomes reasonable to make a 1500-mile round trip in a weekend just to see a single bird. Shawneen will have you scratching your head and laughing aloud as she recounts more than three decades of bearing witness to insane birding adventures. She is a former WINGS tour leader, artist, Range Data Editor for BirdArea and AviSys, and obsessive birder. Shawneen will have you scratching your head and laughing aloud as she recounts more than three decades of bearing witness to insane birding adventures. She is a former WINGS tour leader, artist, Range Data Editor for BirdArea and AviSys, and obsessive birder.


— Stephen Shunk Stephen Shunk from Lamar High School in lovely Arlington, Texas, but he didn’t begin birding until 1989, after moving the San Francisco Bay Area. Steve started teaching about birds and their habitats in 1991, and he soon landed his first volunteer field job, studying colonial waterbirds for the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory. Tired of living in the urban jungle, Steve left California in 1997, eventually landing in the forests of central Oregon’s “Woodpecker Wonderland”—where eleven woodpecker species breed annually in an area smaller than the city of Harlingen! He has spent the last 19 years studying woodpeckers in his backyard and beyond, and his long-awaited Peterson Reference Guide to Woodpeckers of North America hit the shelves in May 2016. Through his company, Paradise Birding, Steve leads natural history tours across the Western Hemisphere. He has lectured on a diverse array of topics from North America to Southeast Asia, and he is a travel writer and editor for the online Nature Travel Network.


 

Jeffrey-GordonJeffrey A. Gordon is the president of the American Birding Association, now headquartered in Delaware City, Delaware. Jeff is also a well-known writer, photographer, tour leader, and naturalist. He is a frequent speaker at various birding and nature festivals. For more information
Birding Together: How Birding Can Save Your Life and Maybe, Just Maybe, Save the World

Talk – Birding Together: How Birding Can Save Your Life and Maybe, Just Maybe, Save the World
Join American Birding Association President Jeffrey Gordon for a celebration of the power of birding to heal and transform, not only our own lives but even our world. Those of us who are lucky enough to be birders know what a positive force birding can be. But that message is something that we as a community have had mixed results in conveying. Why is it that with as great a “product” to sell as the redemptive power of a passionate curiosity about nature and belonging to community of of some of the most interesting, caring people anywhere, we’ve made relatively little traction with the wider public? Jeff will share stories and insights about how we can build a better world for birders and for birds.


–Neil Hayward grew up near Oxford, England, where, at a young age, he first became obsessed with birds. After a PhD in genetics at Cambridge University he moved (permanently) to the US in 2005 to head up the US operations of the biotechnology company Abcam. He left in 2011 to pursue a consulting career as owner of Cambridge Blue Consulting. Neil is currently the Field Trip Coordinator and a director of the Brookline Bird Club. He is the author of Lost Among the Birds (Bloomsbury, June 2016), a memoir of his accidental big year. He lives in Cambridge, MA with his wife Gerri and two cats, Sally and Khiva.