Young Birder of the Year Contest: Judges

Young Birder of the Year Contest: Judges2017-09-11T19:06:35+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 Bill Stewart.

Below we present the current judges!

Field Notebook Module

O_BrienMichael O’Brien is a freelance author, artist, and VENT tour leader living in Cape May, New Jersey. He has a passionate interest in bird vocalizations and field identification, and a serious addiction to migration and nocturnal birding. His travels have taken him throughout North and Central America and beyond. At home in Cape May, Michael serves as an Associate Naturalist with Cape May Bird Observatory for whom he conducts numerous workshops, and, for many years, conducted a fall songbird migration count. He is co-author of The Shorebird Guide, Flight Calls of Migratory Birds, and America’s 100 Most Wanted Birds, and is primary author of Larkwire, an online and handheld application for learning bird sounds. His illustrations have been widely published including in National Geographic’s Field Guide to the Birds of North America and the new Peterson field guides. Michael also has an intense interest in butterflies and leads several “Birds & Butterflies” tours with his wife, Louise Zemaitis, and is coordinator of the Cape May Butterfly Count.

MikePowersMike Powers combined his passions for science, communication, and birding when he joined the Citizen Science program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. He started with the Birdhouse Network (now NestWatch), but in 2001 shifted positions to manage the development of the real-time, online checklist program known as eBird. In 2005 Mike shifted to the Conservation Science program to assist in the search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. He continues to focus on conservation issues, using acoustics to study nocturnal migrants, as well as species of concern such as Whip-poor-will and Spotted Owl. When not analyzing spectrograms, birding his local patch, or eBirding, Mike is typically absorbed in photography, music, or exploring the outdoors with his wife and daughter. They live outside of Ithaca, NY.

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.



Ted Floyd is the Editor of Birding, the flagship publication of the American Birding Association. He has published widely on birds and ecological topics. Ted has written more than 125 articles, with contributions to scholarly journals such as Ecology, Oecologia, Animal Behaviour, Journal of Animal Ecology, and Trends in Ecology and Evolution and contributions to popular magazines such as Natural History, Birdwatcher’s Digest, and Birding. Ted received a B.A. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology from Princeton University in 1990 and a Ph.D. in Ecology from Penn State University in 1995. Ted is a frequent speaker at birding festivals and ornithological meetings, and he has led birding trips and workshops throughout North America.


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

Young Birder of the Year Contest: JudgesJeff Gordon is the president of the American Birding Association. There’s very little about birds, birding, and birders that he doesn’t find fascinating, though he’s especially interested in birding culture and the many ways we all communicate our passion for birds.

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 Contest: 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 Camp Colorado, Jennie currently co-leads VENT’s Camp Chiricahua. For her day job, Jennie works as the Education and Outreach 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 adjunct faculty at the University of Arizona, in the School of the Environment and Natural Resources and a proud member of the Leica Birding Team.

terry_richTerry Rich has coordinated Partners in Flight (PIF) since 2000. His interests include large-scale, multi-species conservation planning and vulnerability assessment. Publications coauthored to this end include Source Habitats for Terrestrial Vertebrates of Focus in the Interior Columbia Basin (2000), the North American Landbird Conservation Plan (2004), and the Partners in Flight Tri-National Vision for Landbird Conservation (2010). He evaluates grant proposals for the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act program, serves on the Global Important Bird Areas Technical Committee for the National Audubon Society, and is a member of the Global Flyways Working Group of the Convention for Migratory Species. Terry has served on the Board and as president of the Cooper Ornithological Society and on the Council of the American Ornithologists’ Union. Terry lives in Boise with his wife, 3 children and 4 grand-children where he is pursuing a PhD in Public Policy.

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.


In accordance with the bylaws of the American Birding Association, the Board of Directors has set the date for the next Annual Meeting of the Members of the Association for Saturday, September 22, 2018. Time and place are 4:00 PM, Saturday, September 22, 2018, at the American Birding Expo, to be held at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center, 100 Station Ave, Oaks, PA 19456 

The official Notice of the Meeting and the Proxy will be distributed to members on or after July 24, 2018, but no later than September 12, 2018

Please click here for location, electronic proxy ballot and other details >>