JER, Bird Liaison

Someone(s) once commented that Pete Dunn is a writer who birds, while Kenn Kaufman is a birder who writes. (Both of these men are well known in the birding community and have published countless books each.)

I am in no means a writer. Or at least I don’t consider myself to be one. However, I think that if you substitute writer with educator, this phrasing might work for me. Thus, Jordan is a birder who educates, not the other way around.

JER giving a bird banding demonstration to a kindergarten class in Texas

JER giving a bird banding demonstration to a kindergarten class in Texas

I bring this up because several people (all of whom don’t know each other) have brought up the idea/suggestion that I be a teacher. While that’s always been an option and kept on the back burner list of possibilities, I just don’t see it being the vocation I make my life’s career out of. Being a teacher isn’t the job that I feel compelled to rush out and sign up for. Being a bird educator/outreacher of some kind though, that is something I can day dream about.

Why dismiss a traditional teaching position so quickly when it comes up? Well, to be honest, there aren’t any birds…or at least not enough. Yes, there are programs (some of which I’ve worked for and am connected with) that can be brought into the classroom. Yes, there are lesson plans and curriculum involving birds and bird information. But for me, that’s not enough.

Why not just be an ornithologist then? This situation is the complete opposite of teaching though. Where are the people to share the bird information with? Where is the opportunity to talk and engage with people from other backgrounds to get new perspectives and always push me/us to be the best, most scientific ornithologist as possible? Where is the ability to be continually re-energized by the excitement and questions and wonder seen in other people that are being exposed to birds and bird research.

A summer job I once had seems like a great match then. (I put on educational bird events for kids.) Here’s the only thing, the constant change in kids was basically the only thing that made it new and exciting. We had a set program that we did…every, single time. To be honest, after a while it started to get a little repetitive for me.

The issue I see with doing something that involves so much repetition is that I fear I might lose some of my enthusiasm or spark. This is why I need the balance of both worlds. What I may lack in terms of formal education background or training (as of now), I make up with passion. The research aspect keeps me learning and giving me the ability to always have new material to share with others. The outreach component gives me the opportunity to feel like I’m making a difference and doing my part for science and the environmental movement.

How do I describe the balance of ornithology and education/outreach? Liaison. That is what I want to be. I don’t know how else to describe it. I want to take the science and ornithological research and translate that for everyone else to understand.

I’m finding it very difficult to do this though. With the way things are today, it seems as though the choice is either classroom or lab. I’m not happy settling with only those two options.

This all probably sounds stubborn or greedy, but if I’m going to follow what I’ve been taught and stressed by countless people over my life, then I need to “love what I do and do what I love.” And birds and talking about birds is what I love.

JER at Bird Rock, Cape St. Mary's, Newfoundland

JER at Bird Rock, Cape St. Mary’s, Newfoundland