Young Birder of the Year: Judges

Young Birder of the Year: Judges2018-08-15T22:51:07+00:00

We admit it…there is nothing easy about judging the ABA Young Birder of the Year Contest! We owe a debt of gratitude to those who step forward each year to help us select our contest winners. They spend countless volunteer hours reviewing and providing feedback on each entry. Their efforts truly make the contest an educational and memorable experience.

Because of the time commitment we like to rotate judges year-to-year. If you are interested in becoming a judge, please contact Liz Gordon.

Below we present the current judges!

Field Notebook Module

Jody Enck is a life-long birder, having been fascinated as a child by the incredible diversity of avian life on a small farm in south-central Pennsylvania. While his family members enjoyed birds, none of them were really into birding. So, he looked to print and audio media for support as a birder. Eventually, he adopted the idea of using a field notebook to record his sighting, take notes, and draw pictures that only he could love.  He has spent the last 30 years or so in the conservation field, first as a wildlife biologist and then as a conservation social scientist.  In 2016, he helped found the Sister Bird Club Network, which links birders throughout the Western Hemisphere and beyond through the birds we all love so much.

Jen Brumfield is a lifelong birder and natural historian. Her paintings and illustrations have been widely published, including several covers for Birding. A naturalist with Cleveland Metroparks, Brumfield guides pelagic trips on Lake Erie each fall. She is a frequent speaker at birding festivals.

Writing Module

lisa_whiteLisa A. White is Director of Guidebooks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. She has edited books by many of North America’s most well-known birders and is the editor of both the Peterson and Kaufman Field Guide series. An avid birder, she has been a member of the ABA since 2000 and a YBY judge numerous times in the past contests.

Mike Hudson is an Editor of North American Birds, the journal of the American Birding Association that addresses current trends and topics in bird status and distribution. Currently a senior at Washington College, he is biology major, specializing in physiology and organismal biology, and an English minor, focusing on non-fiction writing and English instruction. He has written for Birding, the ABA blog, and has been an instructor at the ABA Young Birder Camp, Camp Avocet. Mike also works outside of the ABA. He is a tutor at Washington College, teaching writing and English outside-the-classroom. He also works at the Foreman’s Branch Bird Observatory as an intern bird banding assistant. In the past he has also done out-of-the-classroom education at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, where he was instructor for their teen volunteer training program.

J_ZarankinJulia Zarankin writes, birds, and lectures to later-life learners in Toronto. Her writing has appeared in US and Canadian literary journals, including Threepenny Review, Antioch Review, Maisonneuve, and The New Quarterly. In addition, she reviews books for Birding and has written for 10000Birds, Nature Travel Network and Ontario Nature. Julia graduated from Brown University and received her PhD in Comparative Literature from Princeton University. Julia accidentally discovered birds in 2009 and hasn’t looked back since; she documents her transformation on her blog.

Illustration Module

Rafael-Galvez-WhiteWagtailRafael Galvez has been a birder with a sketchpad in hand since childhood. He firmly believes that sketching and notetaking enrich the birding experience, allowing observers to capture and express the stories of birds from an authentic perspective. During his teens he would not consider a bird for his life list unless he had sketched it in the field from direct observation. This belief in the value of observation has served as a major influence in his approach to depicting birds, whether for field guides or for more evocative works. His renderings have been featured in many publications. He has traveled extensively for conservation and educational projects. His collaborations with Russian landscape painters have taught him much about the power of color and texture to portray light and form in nature. For years he directed art and ecology programs in Miami for inner city youth. He is now director at the Florida Keys Hawkwatch, leader for Victor Emanuel Nature Tours and on the Leica Birding Team. See some of his sketches at

SophieWebbSophie Webb has drawn and painted wildlife since childhood. The basis of almost all her work is observation and field sketching, combined occasionally with museum specimens; in particular for the field guide plates that she paints. She has traveled as a biologist studying and painting birds from the Amazon to the Arctic and Antarctic. In 1995 she co-authored and illustrated A Guide to the Birds of Mexico and Northern Central America. In 2000 she published an award winning children’s book, My Season with Penguins: An Antarctic Journal about studying Adelie Penguins in the Antarctic, where she worked for 5 seasons. Her 2nd children’s book is about seabirds in the Aleutians, Looking for Seabirds: Journal from an Alaskan Voyage. She has worked on numerous cruises as a researcher or naturalist in the Central Pacific, Eastern Tropical Pacific, Atlantic, Antarctic, Aleutians and the Bering Sea and she is a director of Oikonos: Ecosystem Knowledge.

louisezemaitisLouise Zemaitis is an artist and naturalist living in Cape May, NJ where she is an Associate Naturalist with the Cape May Bird Observatory. As a tour leader for Victor Emanuel Nature Tours, Louise has traveled throughout much of North and South America, and Antarctica. She also enjoys leading birding groups and lecturing at birding festivals. Louise and her husband, Michael O’Brien, have been guiding young birders at birding events and conferences for many years. Louise is also coordinator of the Monarch Monitoring Project in Cape May, compiler of the Cape May Christmas Bird Count, and member of the Cape May Artists’ Cooperative. An honors graduate of Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, she enjoys working as a freelance artist and her illustrations have been widely published.

Photography Module

Justin Cale is a nationally published wildlife and conservation photographer, as well as a blog writer for Wildside Nature Tours. He was handed his first DSLR camera just five years ago, and has spent the majority of his time since improving his skills and photographing wildlife. Most recently, he journeyed to Alaska, to photograph Humpback Whales, Killer Whales, Brown Bears, and rugged landscapes. Justin is a strong advocate for youth nature/wildlife education, and enjoys helping other photographers learn the craft. He hopes to use his photographs and writing to bring people closer together to build strong partnerships and relationships that could affect conservation positively for generations to come.

billschmokerBill Schmoker’s photos appear in magazines, photographic field guides, bird ID cards, newspapers, interpretive signs, webpages, advertisements, corporate logos, and as artist references ( He is also a busy blogger, columnist, instructor, speaker and trip leader, and is a proud member of the Leica Birding Team. When not birding, Bill teaches middle school science and enjoys family life with his wife and son.

Young Birder of the Year: Judges

Mia McPherson enjoyed film photography but when digital cameras were invented her love for bird photography deepened because of the instant results she could obtain. Mia became seriously passionate about bird photography while living in Florida and after her move West in 2009 she has spent much of her time photographing birds in Utah, Idaho and Montana. Her images have appeared in field guides, magazines, books and on her daily blog. Mia is a frequent photo contributor to ABA’s Birding magazine and other ABA publications. 

Conservation & Community Leadership Module

J_DuberstienJennie Duberstein is the Young Birder Liaison for the ABA. She manages the young birder blog (The Eyrie) and provides support to other young birder programs, including directing Camp Colorado. She’s been involved with young birder programs since 1999 with the ABA and other organizations, editing A Bird’s-Eye View, the student newsletter of the ABA, coordinating the first three young birder conferences, and directing and leading field courses and summer camps for young birders. In addition to directing Camp Colorado, Jennie currently co-leads VENT’s Camp Chiricahua. For her day job, Jennie works as the Coordinator for the Sonoran Joint Venture, a program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that works to conserve the unique birds and habitats of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. She is also a proud member of the Leica Birding Team.

Bill Stewart is the ABA’s Director of Conservation and Community, managing and administrating the Young Birder Program, Spark Bird Project, Song Bird Coffee, Duck Stamp Sales and Birders Exchange. Bill also cultivates and develops many of the ABA’s partnerships, sponsors and corporate supporters. A passionate birder for over 38 years, Bill is outgoing President of the Delmarva Ornithological Society, Founder and Coordinator of the Delaware Bird-A-Thon, Wilmington Peregrine Falcon Webcam Project and LightsOut! Wilmington Initiatives. Bill has received numerous awards for his bird conservation efforts, including the USFWS Conservation Champion Award, the U.S. Department of the Interior Citizens Award and the 2015 Rosalie Edge Conservation Award from the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club. Calling Wilmington, DE home for most of his life, Bill loves to spend his free time flower gardening, birding, surfing and hanging with his four adult children and two grandsons.

LaPumaBeginning in 2014 David La Puma is the director of New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory, whose mission is connecting people to nature and stewarding the nature of today for the generations of tomorrow. David received his doctorate from Rutgers University in 2010 where he studied how best to protect the remaining populations of the Federally Endangered Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow in Everglades National Park. Since then David has completed two postdoctoral research appointments, the first for two years at New Jersey Audubon, and the second for one year at the University of Delaware, both of them using RADAR to study bird migration and identify important stopover habitat for conservation. Before joining the Cape May Bird Observatory in his most recent position, David worked for Leica Sport Optics as a product specialist in their high-end binocular and spotting scope division.


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