Did you have a spark bird?
I was an undergrad in college, and just finished up exams. There was a sign on the door ‘help needed for a burrowing owl research assistant'. I was the first one to call and got the position.
What does the future of birding look like from your perspective?
I would say from the time I started, I think it's more widespread. Maybe it's not. It seems like it is more widespread because we have better connectivity through eBird, listservs, and all online services where we can communicate better. It feels like it's gotten bigger to me, maybe it's just that we're more connected and aware of each other. It feels like it's growing.
In your lifetime, how has technology changed or impacted birding?
When we first started we didn’t have smartphones or cameras on our phones. Digiscoping is the biggest change. When we got a digital camera, we could see what we took pictures of, and you can make that positive ID by using photos.
As a mentor to young people, what advice would you give to new birders?
Take new people outside. When we don't see birds we look at plants, insects, and when the birds come back that's our focus. Taking young people outside is really beneficial in sparking their interest. It diverges into all aspects of nature. We get kids that come along that aren’t into birds but get into birds because they just want to see cool stuff.
HOW WE MET
Jessamyn is a teacher at Jupiter Environmental Research and Field Studies Academy, a four-year Magnet school program designed to meet the needs of students who wish to pursue an academic curriculum with emphasis on environmental studies. I met her and her students, who took a field trip to the Dry Tortugas National Park to go birding... lucky ducks! She's done a fantastic job engaging students with nature, and has led student trips across the country including Yellowstone National Park. It was apparent the enthusiasm she exudes and her knowledge of the natural world is contagious. I enjoyed birding with the group around Fort Jefferson, finding some fun tropical birds and migrant warblers!