Background -where are you from and where did you study?
Originally I’m from Jacksonville, Florida. I graduated from Columbus College of Art & Design with a degree in Time Based Media Studies. I’ve always have had a love of nature and wildlife, and I’ve been able to use my artistic talents and training to create visuals for guests whether it’s tree ID signs along the boardwalk, 3-D animations for outreach during campaigns, or designing graphics for merchandise in the visitor center. Here I get both art and nature, the best of both worlds.
A lot of what I know stems from reading (as a kid I grew up with the Audubon guide books and to this day still recognize insects I’ve seen in person before because of them), and from observation in the field. Learning to talk to people about nature has been arguably more challenging, but I love sharing it with others and see them connect to it, and I also love countering misconceptions. Nature can be scary, but the only thing that has attacked me unprovoked at Beidler in over ten years has been crayfish.
How about any hobbies or favorite things to do?
I usually have lots of projects I’m working on, art, writing, crafts, each on their own conveyor belt that slowly moves towards completion over time. I like to go hiking and kayaking, and also enjoy reading and computer games. Over time I’ve developed an excellent skill of killing houseplants.
What got you interested in birds?
For me it’s a lot of the science, both the research and the discoveries. I’m fascinated by the fact that some hawks can see ultraviolet light and can use that to track down their prey (such as voles, whose urine reflect ultraviolet light), or how birds may see a “haze” in their vision that represents the planet’s magnetic field, or how a Carolina Wren can sing as loud as a chainsaw and not go deaf since the hair cells in bird ears regenerate when they are damaged.
Do you have a spark bird story?
I can’t really recall a specific or first moment that would count as a spark bird, but I’ve had hundreds of cool encounters while working at Beidler. While guiding a field trip I once convinced some twenty school kids to play red light green light with a Barred Owl that was just above the boardwalk, making everyone stop walking forward whenever the owl turned their head to look at us. I once put my kayak in the path of an alligator that was making a beeline towards a raft of baby Wood Ducks (everyone lived). Just last year I heard a Mockingbird convincingly mimic a Yellow-billed Cuckoo’s call, which was very impressive and increased my opinion regarding the species.