What is your job, what do you work on, and what is your involvement with GoMAMN?
I have two primary responsibilities – I am an Assistant Research Professor with the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center and also the Research Coordinator for the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. My program uses science to address coastal ecosystem management questions, with a focus on coastal birds and a habitat focus on tidal marshes. I am one of the co-founders of GoMAMN, serving on the Coordination Committee and as co-chair of the marsh bird working group. I also am serving as the lead Editor for the upcoming GoMAMN Monitoring Plan.
Are there any particular areas you are seeking collaboration or willing to collaborate with others?
One of my primary goals is to implement standardized marsh bird monitoring across the Gulf of Mexico region from Florida west to Texas. Currently Mississippi is conducting these surveys with strong interest from both Alabama and Louisiana. We are currently exploring funding to implement a Gulf-wide effort and would welcome any and all collaborators from across the northern Gulf Region. I am also interested in collaborating with folks to implement a quantitative adaptive management approach to tidal marsh management across the entire Gulf Region, with a primary focus on understanding how various tidal marsh management/restoration activities influence terrestrial vertebrate use of tidal ecosystems.
Tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised on a small farm in southern Ohio, an experience which directly led to me being a professional wildlife ecologist. I started bird-watching at the age of 10 and floundered for a couple of years due to a lack of a mentor. At the age of 12, I met a fellow who banded birds and when not playing ice hockey, I was hanging out with Bob Thobaben banding birds. During my high school years, I was lucky to meet up with and be able to tag along with Zoology graduate students from Miami University (Ohio) where I really became enamoured with birds and field ecology. I received both my B.Sc. and M.Sc. from The Ohio State University where I studied winter caching behavior in White-breasted Nuthatches. I studied fall land bird migrations along the northern Gulf of Mexico with Dr. Frank Moore at the University of Southern Mississippi, after which I worked at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science as the state ornithologist. That was followed by a two year stint with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service working with the Southeast Region Migratory Bird Program. My move to my current position with Mississippi State University was the opportunity to delve back into the research community and work on coastal ecosystems, especially tidal marshes and wetland birds.
Besides a coordinated and integrated monitoring program, what do you see as another essential need for furthering avian management in the Gulf of Mexico?
I would like to see a concerted Gulf-wide effort to better understand the movements of birds relative to the Gulf of Mexico, including the Mexican Gulf region to the south. There is an ever-changing world of technological advances and tools for investigating bird movements yet they are typically disparate, local scale studies for the most part. I think this animal tracking effort should focus not only on broad-scale movement but also understanding local movements, including post-breeding dispersal as well as long-distance migratory movements.
Where is your favorite outdoor place on the Gulf Coast?
The tidal marshes of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
If you could befriend 3 famous people (living or dead), who would they be?
I would love to befriend and hang out with E. O. Wilson, Yvon Chouinard (founder of the Patagonia Company), and Chan Robbins.
You’re a major league baseball player. What song do they play to rev up the crowd when you come up to bat?
Desire by U2.
Any other little-known fact about you that you’d like to tell us?
I used to throw boomerangs competitively but now share this passion with my son, Ian.
What is one thing you know for sure?
Birds are my window into the natural world.