2018 FEATURED SPEAKERS
Laura Erickson has been blathering about
birds since she memorized the “Bird” entry in her family’s encyclopedia
when she was a preschooler. She whistled in a cardinal when she was
very little, and once saw a whole flock of warblers in the tree outside
her bedroom window, though she thought they must be the angels of
canaries that died saving miners’ lives.
Laura didn’t know how to identify birds until after her mother-in-law gave her a field guide and binoculars for Christmas in 1974. By the late ’70s she was subjecting her middle-school students in Madison, Wisconsin, and readers of her occasional columns in The Wisconsin State Journal to endless stories about birds. She moved to Duluth, Minnesota, and started producing “For the Birds,” a radio spot now airing on independent public and community radio stations from Oregon to New York, in 1986. “For the Birds” is the longest-running radio program about birds in the United States, podcast at http://www.lauraerickson.com/radio/.
Laura is currently a contributing editor of BirdWatching magazine, author of eleven books, including 101 Ways to Help Birds, the American Birding Association Field Guide to Minnesota Birds, and the National Geographic Pocket Guide to North American Birds, and she collaborates on projects with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, where she served as science editor from 2008–2010.
Laura served as a licensed wildlife rehabilitator focused primarily on songbirds and especially Common Nighthawks while she was a stay-at-home mother in the 80s and 90s; has counted raptors and songbirds at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory and other sites in Duluth, Minnesota; and studied nighthawk digestion as part of an ill-fated Ph.D project. Her professor, Dr. Gary Duke (co-founder of The Raptor Center) told her she was the “world authority on nighthawk digestion” even as he mentioned that no one else particularly wanted that distinction.
An avid birder, Laura saw 604 species (593 countable by ABA rules) during her “2013 Conservation Big Year,” and until recently was listed in the top ten overall on the ABA “Listing Central” for Lower 48 Big Years. Probably many people have seen more than she has who haven’t entered their totals, so this is a meaningless distinction.
Marshall Iliff, born in Maryland, started birding at age 11 and attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, from 1993-1997. After college, Marshall criss-crossed the continent on various field jobs (including four months studying bird migration on an oil platform off New Orleans) before taking a job as a professional tour guide for Victor Emanuel Nature Tours. His travels included visits to all 50 states, as well as Mexico, Panama, Belize, Greenland, and Kenya. In 2007 Marshall was hired by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology as the third eBird Project Leader. Since then, the project has enjoyed significant growth, has expanded worldwide and has developed an eBird website specific to Maine (among other states). Among the most exciting projects has been seeing the millions of birdwatcher observations come together using new modeling techniques that show animated maps of bird migration, species-by-species, at the continental scale. Marshall lives with his wife and two dogs in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, gets out eBirding whenever he is not behind the computer.
Raymond VanBuskirk is a passionate birder, environmentalist, and vegan whose love for feathered creatures (dinosaurs included) was born in the mountains of the Land of Enchantment. His career experience includes president of the Central New Mexico Audubon Society, owner and lead guide of BRANT Nature Tours (www.BrantTours.com), researcher in field and lab ornithology, ABA youth camp instructor and Birding Specialist for Leica Sport Optics. Since age seven Raymond's travels have taken him to ten countries (he's only 27) where he has had the great privilege of deepening his connection to the natural world through multi-cultural outdoor exploration. His international travel experiences have not only deepened his admiration for the natural world but have further fueled his desire to protect it and share it with all generations of humans.