What is your job, what do you work on, and what is your involvement with GoMAMN?
I’m a quantitative ecologist at the Biodiversity Research Institute, a non-profit based out of Portland, ME that is focused integrating science into policy-making. My research is varied but is focused on animals responding to a changing world. I do work in the world of contaminants and try to understand how exposure risk for birds will be changing in the future, how bird migration is affected by climate change, the reasons behind species distribution changes, and how seabird ecology is being influenced by changing ocean conditions. I’m also interested in developing and interrogating new analytical methods to help us answers these questions in more accurate ways. In that vein, I’m often interested in how we can use models to bring together disparate data sets so that we can maximize what we learn about ecosystems or species.
For GoMAMN, I sit on the Steering Committee, co-chair the Seabirds Committee, and seem to helping lead a post-hoc committee on data sharing and integration. I co-led a couple of chapters in the Strategic Bird Monitoring Guidelines that came from these groups. I’m generally interested in designing monitoring plans that are effective and allow stakeholders to learn important things about their study system. So, I tend to be focused on the mechanisms of data collection and synthesis.
Are there any particular areas you are seeking collaboration or willing to collaborate with others?
I’m always wanting to collaborate with others on projects. As a quantitative ecologist I’m often working with people who have datasets and need a little help getting it analyzed. This is one of my jobs at BRI, so collaboration is in my job description. It’s always fun getting to learn about new systems and devise analytical methods that allow us to maximize what we learn about the system and correctly describe the uncertainty in that assessment. In the Gulf of Mexico, I think on our biggest challenges will be creating plans for synthesizing data sets across species with different life histories and monitoring methods. We will need a wide range of experts across many communities to create effective assessments of Gulf bird species and we are going to need a diverse group of collaborators to make that work. If anybody is interested in working on something like that, let me know!
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in the middle of the desert in Washington State, right next to Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Hanford site. My formal introduction to science happened in high school when I was lucky enough to get an internship working at PNNL and running a high-energy particle accelerator (long story). After discovering that I don’t like working in windowless garages all day I got hooked on ecology during study abroad program in Costa Rica. After that I pursued a graduate degree in ecology and ended working on White Ibises in the Everglades for my Masters. I went on to study songbird migration in South Florida (and elsewhere) for my PhD while at the University of Maine. So, there was a lot of bouncing around to different places. Now I work for a research NGO and while it’s a bit strange being a researcher in the Gulf of Mexico while the closest body of water is the Gulf of Maine, I find that it gives me an interesting perspective on our work.
Aside from work, I get to hang out with my cool wife, our weird cats, and try to get outside and go birding or kayaking on a regular basis. I’ve also had to take up winter running, which is a sad statement but you have to do something to get outside even when it’s miserable.
Besides a coordinated and integrated monitoring program, what do you see as another essential need for furthering avian management in the Gulf of Mexico?
While such a monitoring plan would clearly be critical thing for the Gulf, I would place similar emphasize on developing an integrated and supportive Community of Practice within Gulf monitoring practitioners. Professionals need networks of colleague to develop and implement ideas, share ideas, share data, and develop then interrogate hypotheses. I think this is another role that GoMAMN can play in the community. It can be a group that helps folks collaborate and provides a forum to discuss the best ideas for bird conservation in the region. There isn’t an entity that is consistently providing this sort of outlet in the region at the moment, and I think that this is a goal that is worth working toward.
Where is your favorite outdoor place on the Gulf Coast?
Dauphin Island, AL during spring migration is a pretty great place to be.
If you could befriend 3 famous people (living or dead), who would they be?
Oh wow, this is tough. Albert Einstein because it would be cool to talk with a genius, Roger Tory Petersen to talk birds, and Rachel Carson because she is my hero.
You’re a major league baseball player. What song do they play to rev up the crowd when you come up to bat?
I initially picked something else but my wife told me it’s “Highway to the Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins and she’s right.
Any other little-known fact about you that you’d like to tell us?
I played guitar in an extremely mediocre rock band in college called the ‘The Cold Ones.’ We were named after our preferred payment currency.
What is one thing you know for sure?
Birds are great.