I like to focus on real world problems related to bird conservation. I like to conduct practical research that will ultimately provide feedback to state and federal agencies, private landowners or companies about management for imperiled bird species. I’m interested in how bird population size and bird survival and reproduction are affected by humans and things that we do. My research focuses on collecting the data to develop solutions and managing those important aspects of the populations.
The most important thing that I’ve learned is about management. There are some bird populations that are experiencing declines but have had conservation management directed toward them. We’re going to need to do a better job of concentrating and ensuring that those management aspects are actually affecting the bird populations and those species of interest. A lot of the time, the management is funded by the government in cost-share programs. It’s really important - not just for the birds but from an economic perspective.
What jobs did you have before coming to WVU?
After my Ph.D., I did a postdoc at the University of Tennessee for about a year and a half. I supervised about four different research projects all involved with birds and doing a lot of grazing management. We were working with cattle in grazing systems for bird conservation. In between my undergraduate and my Master’s degree, I worked at a steel mill! It was a long time ago, but I did it!
What has been the best or most enjoyable time/class/moment in your education?
The most enjoyable moments for me are always the moments when I was in the field collecting the data. I think that’s the reason a lot of us in wildlife and fisheries get into our field. You really get a feel for the organisms and the ecosystem that you’re working in. And it’s just really good to be out! You get to watch birds all day!
What has been the best or most enjoyable time/class/moment in your job?
Some of the most gratifying moments are when I receive feedback from my undergraduates who have taken my ornithology class and have a new appreciation or maybe even really fall in love with birds and bird research. The reason why that’s gratifying is because it was an ornithology class that I took as an undergraduate that set me on my career path.
What’s one thing you wish you had known in college?
If you won a billion dollars, what would you do with the money?
I’d probably do some of the standard things like pay off debts, mortgage on the house, invest for my kids’ futures, travel. I’d honestly fund my own research. I’d make sure in my travels to incorporate the beach, maybe even buy a beach house. My wife and my kids like the beach even though it's not my favorite. Traveling for me would really focus on birding and hiking and backpacking to see the birds of the world… and to taste the food of the countries that I’m traveling to.
I always say that even if I had money, this is my dream career. I would not change my career;I would just have the luxury of funding my own research and being able to do whatever I wanted.
What were you most grateful for in 2020?
Mostly my family and my world were relatively unaffected by the pandemic. I still was able to teach in person. We were cautious. We didn’t suffer financially at all and many people did. My children were still able to attend school with those precautions. My wife and I were still able to enjoy the company of our neighbors. We didn’t lose anybody to the pandemic, not anyone close to us. I’d say we were pretty fortunate.
What were you most excited for in 2021?
Continuing to grow my research lab and publishing the interesting research that I’ve been able to do here. Beginning new research projects in West Virginia that I’ve gotten started this year is the most exciting thing.
Just for Fun
What are you currently reading? The Wolves of Calla by Stephen King
What’s your favorite meal? Cheesesteak specifically from Philadelphia
What’s a song that you can listen to on repeat? You Can Call Me Al by Paul Simon
What’s one thing you can’t live without? My beautiful family, my wife and my kids