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Jennie Duberstein
Tucson, Arizona
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Young birder Sam Brunson offers his thoughts on the ABA's Camp Colorado, which just wrapped up a couple weeks ago. Continue reading
Posted Aug 11, 2013 at ABA Blog
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Yesterday afternoon the 2013 U.S. State of the Birds Report was released, the nation’s first review of bird distribution and conservation opportunities on private lands. Continue reading
Posted Jul 3, 2013 at ABA Blog
With all respect Mary, although 54% of people identified by the FWS survey may be women (and it is important to note that their definition of "birder" is NOT the same as the definition being put forth by the author in this blog post), I can say from my own years of experience working with young birders that the percentages are not the same for that age demographic. There are far, far fewer girls involved in birding than boys in the young birder world (and by young birder you could say 25 and under; I'd be willing to bet the same holds true for up to age 45 or so. At last year's Camp Colorado we had three girl participants (out of about 17 total) and at Camp Chiricahua we had two (out of ~12 total). I have been doing young birder programs since the mid 1990s and the numbers have always been similar to this; the boys outnumber the girls. I very strongly believe that we DO need to get more girls interested, and work to keep them involved.
Toggle Commented Jun 18, 2013 on Open Mic: The Field Glass Ceiling at ABA Blog
Michael, in response to your comment, I pretty much agree completely—we need to encourage more young women and girls to become (or remain, probably more accurately) involved with birding. I agree that the representation of women (of any age) in the birding community, as defined in this blog post, is low. But a fair bit of this in the adult world, as far as I am concerned, all comes down to how you define a birder. If you are talking about people who lead trips or have a life list or any of the measures that have previously been suggested in the post (and in comment threads about this post on Facebook), yes: there are not nearly as many women. But for me, the definition of ‘birder’ has always been a bit broader. I can think of a number of young women, now in the 20-35 age group, who I’d put in that category (Lauren Harter, Heidi Trudell, Leigh Lindstrom, Lena Senko, Hope Batcheller, and Alyssa Rosemartin all immediately spring to mind). I am surrounded daily by women doing important bird conservation work (in addition to the excellent women mentioned in the blog post or elsewhere in the various comments, I’ll put forth, in no particular order, Melissa Pitkin, Ellie Cohen, Ashley Dayer, Tammy VerCauteren, Kacie Miller, Lacrecia Johnson, Jennie MacFarland, Kirsten Lindquist, Beth Huning, Sandra Scoggin, Catherine Rideout, Mary Gustafson, Carol Beardmore, Carol Beidelman, Joni Ellis, Sue Bonfield, Barb Pardo, EJ Williams, Trish Edwards, Ali Duvall, Christina Sloop, Deanna Dixon, Bridgitte Collins, Sharon Kahara, Ruth Ostroff, and Betty Petersen, just to name a few—I could keep on going). There are plenty of women out there doing important bird conservation work—many in leadership positions—most of whom are also active in the birding community. So for me the question is really more about the metrics used to determine who is a “good” birder. That said, there are definitely way more male young birders than female young birders, and I think that adults have a responsibility to do what we can to change this because, as you say, the young birders of today are the leaders of the birding (and conservation) community of tomorrow. The way I see it there are really two issues at play. The first is that there are just more boys interested in birds/birding than girls. We need to figure out how to bring more girls into the fold. As various people stated in this article, having a mentor is usually a very key part to the way that most young people become involved in birding. I have to say that I think the argument that there are predominantly only male mentors is a bit of a copout. Would it be good to have more female mentors? Absolutely. Should we do more to promote and encourage this? Without a doubt. But we, as adults, regardless of our gender, can create programs and opportunities for youth that introduce and engage them to the world of birds and birding (and conservation, and natural history, etc., etc.) and that provide them with the opportunity to meet diverse adults doing all kinds of important and interesting things. It doesn’t have to be a one-on-one relationship. Invite young people out on your field trips. Provide transportation (this is probably the young birder’s biggest obstacle to getting out and going birding). Organize a monthly outing for young birders in your neighborhood. Build a relationship with the parents and let them know that their child is in good hands. And if you can’t do any of this? Then support the programs that can—the ABA, of course, has a long history of providing opportunities to young birders (disclaimer—I have been involved in some way with ABA young birder programs since about 1998), but there are opportunities all over the country. There are the big ticket things like the various summer camps and programs (make a donation to their scholarship fund or work with your local bird club to provide a scholarship to a local young birder), but by working with your local nature clubs, birding clubs, Audubon Societies, etc., you can organize some sort of regular opportunity to connect young people with birds and nature, to help build the community and the diversity that we would like to see in the future of the birding world. The second issue is that, based on my experience, girls tend to drop out of birding as they reach high school or college. We need to think about why they drop out in the first place, and how we can keep them engaged. I’ve been watching the commentary here with interest, and while certainly girls tend to become more image conscious with age, I know that boys also deal with being in a minority and getting picked on for having a nerdy hobby (yes, there are more male young birders than female young birders, but compared to the entire world of young men? They are still a very, very small proportion of the total population.) As for those who blame the male young birders, I respectfully disagree with you completely. There are jerks anywhere you look, and male young birders have undoubtedly made inappropriate comments at one time or another. (Unfortunately, as has been evidenced by this post and the subsequent comments, this happens in the adult world, too.) But to generalize and say that male young birders are the reason that there aren’t more young women in the field is just not fair, any more so than saying that a handful of jerks in the male birding world make all male birders jerks. I have never seen any of the boys and young men with whom I’ve had the pleasure of birding over the years be anything but respectful, both to girls/young woman and to each other. Yes, there is teasing. Yes, occasionally people go over the line and feelings get hurt, but in my opinion, this is more about being a teenager than being male (or female—come on, girls can say mean things, too.) And frankly, most male young birders are thrilled at the prospect of getting to hang out with girls that are also interested in birds. (Sorry, Michael, for the heterosexual bent of this line of reasoning, but you get my point, I hope!) So how to we make sure girls don’t drop out? I don’t completely know, but a good start would be to ensure that we encourage and provide opportunities for young birders, especially girls, and particularly as they enter high school and college, those years when we are most likely to lose them. One last thought: the last two ABA Young Birder of the Year winners (age 14-18 category)? Both girls. The last two recipients of the Western Field Ornithologist’s scholarship to attend their annual conference? Both girls. This comment is getting long enough now that it should probably be its own blog post. I’m not trying to say that sexism doesn’t exist in the world of birding; clearly it does, as it does most everywhere. I’m just trying to point out that it isn’t quite as clear cut as this blog post seems to make it. Don’t shortchange women and girls. We’re out there, and we’re doing good stuff, right alongside the boys.
Toggle Commented Jun 13, 2013 on Open Mic: The Field Glass Ceiling at ABA Blog
Hi Sandra, I didn't see your comment to this post until just now, but wanted to quickly write and say thank you for the update about Scooter. We loved having him as a part of camp last year. Please let him know that Bill Schmoker and I say hello and wish him the very best in all that he does. Jennie Duberstein
A kind of cool side note: both Ben Winger and Mike Harvey served stints as student editors for A Bird's-Eye View, the ABA's young birder newsletter, and attended ABA-supported young birder camps and conferences.
Oopsie, I mean the ABA Young Birder Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/youngbirders
Toggle Commented Apr 7, 2012 on The ABA wants to be your friend at ABA Blog
And don't forget the ABA Young Birder Blog! http://birding.typepad.com/youngbirders
Toggle Commented Apr 7, 2012 on The ABA wants to be your friend at ABA Blog
Thanks for the support, Nate! The back story for this post is that Sam started working on it before the identification controversy began, when he thought he had a first state record. As he wrote his post, the rest of the saga began to unfold. Instead of saying, "Oh well, I don't have an article to write," Sam was able to perfectly capture the dizzying ups and downs of the situation and spin his article into an experience to which almost all of us can relate: a bird which just cannot be identified, despite our best efforts. On a more general note, as you say, we've had some really great posts on the blog in the last few months, thanks to a combination of the five student blog editors (Sarah Toner, Alexandria Simpson, Tristan Weinbrenner, Eamon Corbett, and John Shamgochian) and some really great guest posters. Thanks again for sharing the writing of these talented young people with ABA Blog readers, and we'd love to see you all over at the Young Birder Blog!
Toggle Commented Feb 16, 2012 on Young Birder Blog: A Troglodytes Mystery at ABA Blog
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Jul 27, 2011