The ABA is committed to inspire, encourage, and develop thoughtful all-around birding skills in young, aspiring birders by providing them with the opportunity to receive personal advice and guidance from the pillars of our birding community. By providing a goal-oriented, age-appropriate, and challenging mentoring program, the ABA believes young birders will discover new skills and enhance their talents, benefitting our entire community and the world.

A panel of highly regarded birding professionals with expertise in that particular field will access each module entry. Mentor feedback and comments will be based on quality, accuracy, creativity, mechanics, techniques, and adherence to contest rules and the submission guidelines. At the conclusion of the program, each participant will receive written feedback from each mentor with helpful remarks and advice for building the birding skills of young birders. Repeating year after year is encouraged to gain feedback that will help young birders to improve their skills and submissions the following year.

Thank You to Our Dedicated 2023 Young Birder of the Year Mentoring Program Volunteers!

If you would like to become a mentor or otherwise support the ABA YBY Mentoring Program, please contact ybymp@aba.org.

Seth Benz has served as Assistant to the Curator at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, director of Hog Island Audubon Camp, seabird biologist with Audubon’s Project Puffin, and is the current director of Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park’s Bird Ecology Program. In his current role, Seth coordinates citizen scientists’ efforts to monitor bird migrations (hawks, seabirds and songbirds), and biodiversity and phenology observations in the Acadia Region. In addition to leading institute birding tours and workshops, he has guided at birding festivals such as the Biggest Week In American Birding in Ohio and the Acadia Birding Festival in Maine. Seth also serves as an instructor for Hog Island Audubon Camp’s popular Migration and Monhegan Session. Benz was recently elected to a three-year term on the Maine Bird Records Committee. Seth and wife Sue reside in Belfast, Maine with their Australian Shepherd rescue pooch Beazie.

Eva Lark’s lifelong passion has been connecting people to nature. She has a MS degree in Recreation & Parks Management and a BS degree in Environmental Science. For the past two decades she has taught environmental education for various non-profit and governmental agencies and has a fondness for living on islands, currently living on her third island. Eva is the Senior Manager of Public Programs for the National Audubon Society’s Seabird Institute. In this role she manages all the education programs for the Hog Island Audubon Camp in Maine and also serves as the director of two teen birding sessions: Mountains to Sea Birding for Teens and their Costa Rica Teen Camp. In both of these camps, Eva incorporates field journals in the week and enjoys seeing young people explore this medium for the first time. She credits the winter warblers of Florida as her spark birds and loves collecting bird books. Eva’s pronouns are she/her or they/them.
Rebecca Rolnick was a participant in the Young Birder of the Year competition when she was in high school, and is excited to return as a mentor. She is a naturalist, writer, and environmental educator, and her overarching mission is to conserve biodiversity and connect people to nature. She lives in upstate New York and holds a B.S. in Conservation Biology with a minor in Environmental Writing and Rhetoric from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. As a National Geographic Certified Educator, she is passionate about helping students develop a sense of curiosity and wonder, critical thinking skills, and environmental literacy through place-based learning. Rebecca was Logistics Associate for the 2021 “Wild Wonder Nature Journal Educators Conference” and she teaches free workshops through John Muir Law’s online Nature Journal Community Calendar. She received a 2021 Honor Roll Award from the Izaak Walton League of America “in recognition of outstanding work performed in the fields of conservation, public information, and publicity” for her work leading the CNY Young Naturalists program. Learn more about Rebecca at: www.rebeccarolnick.com

Seth Benz

Eva Lark

Rebecca Rolnick

 

Jennie Duberstein volunteers as the ABA’s Young Birder Liaison. She directs Camp Colorado and provides support to the ABA young birder program and generally helps to connect young birders with opportunities and each other. She’s been involved with young birder programs since 1999 with the ABA and other organizations, editing A Bird’s-Eye View and The Eyrie (the student newsletter/blog of the ABA), coordinating 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 is a wildlife biologist and conservation social scientist, directing 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 has spent her professional career working to build partnerships for bird and habitat conservation across the United States and northwest Mexico. Jennie has directed environmental education programs, developed community-based conservation projects in the U.S.-Mexico border region, developed and taught courses and workshops on bird identification, ecotourism, and bird monitoring, and has studied species including Double-crested Cormorant and wading birds in Sonora and Yellow-billed Cuckoos in Arizona. She received her B.S. in Wildlife Biology from Virginia Tech and her M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Arizona’s School of Natural Resources and the Environment.

David La Puma has been delivering exciting and engaging presentations to audiences far and wide for over two decades. His passion of bird migration, and the emergent technology used to study it, cannot be overemphasized. In 2019 David began a new career with Cellular Tracking Technologies, a high-tech company pushing the boundaries of what is possible in wildlife tracking. As the Director of Global Market Development, David is responsible for helping bird observatories and other entities around the globe design and implement cutting-edge wildlife tracking infrastructure, and deploy the next generation of tracking technology. For the five years prior David was the director of New Jersey Audubon’s Cape May Bird Observatory where his responsibilities included monitoring migration at one of the world’s most important migration concentration points, with long-term research of raptor, waterbird, songbirds and butterfly migration engrained in the DNA of the observatory. Prior to his position with CMBO, David was a Product Specialist for Leica Sport Optics where he developed the Leica Birding Team and continues to be a Leica Pro Staff member today. Over the last 17 years David has conducted research on endangered species management of the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow, fire ecology of the Florida Everglades, the use of radar to quantify stopover habitat for migratory birds, and the use of long-term datasets to detect meaningful change in wildlife populations. Since 2014, the highlights of David’s year have been when he has participated as a guest leader for ABA’s Camp Colorado and Camp Avocet.

Jennie MacFarland has been on staff with the Tucson Audubon Society since 2010 as the Bird Conservation Biologist. In 2010, Jennie graduated from the University of Arizona with a BS in Wildlife Conservation and Management from the School of Natural Resources. That same month she was hired by Tucson Audubon Society to work in the Arizona Important Bird Areas Program and currently coordinates the program with our partners Audubon Arizona and Arizona Game and Fish. Jennie is also the coordinator for the Tucson Bird Count and organizes several large-scale citizen science efforts in SE Arizona each year including Elegant Trogon surveys of five Southeast Arizona Sky Island mountain ranges, winter grassland surveys focusing on Chestnut-collared Longspurs and western Yellow-billed Cuckoo surveys. After living in Tucson, Arizona, for over 20 years, Jennie is still amazed and delighted at the beauty and rich bird life of this region and is thrilled to be doing work with bird conservation. A great bonus to this work is how important birding skills and activities are to bird surveys and conservation work. It’s a job so fun it hardly feels like work!

Jennie Duberstein

David La Puma

Jennie MacFarland

Emily Bingham has loved writing and wild spaces for as long as she can remember, and she has married these two passions in her career as a journalist covering the Great Lakes’ great outdoors. She currently writes about nature, the night sky, outdoor recreation and travel for MLive, Michigan’s largest news site, where she enjoys revealing to readers the fantastic worlds found outside when we stay curious and pay close attention. Emily loves working with writers of all ages and experience levels to develop their unique voice, and is thrilled to be a new mentor for the ABA YBYMP writing module. In her free time she likes to be out birding, gardening, learning about native plants or hiking with her bird-photographer husband and their sweet old dog, Bear.

Neil Hayward has been a birder ever since he was strong enough to lift a pair of binoculars on his own. He is a current director on the board of the ABA, serves as President of the Brookline Bird Club, and teaches birding in Massachusetts. He is a writer and editor for the journal Bird Observer, and is the author of Lost Among the Birds, a memoir of his somewhat accidental and entirely ridiculous big year. He’s currently working on a book about the wildlife of southern India. Neil lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his wife Gerri, sons Henry and Alexander, and cats Sally and Khiva.

Rebecca Minardi is passionate about connecting young people with nature and fostering a love of birds at an early age. After receiving her MPH from Des Moines University and a MS in Community Sustainability from Michigan State University, Rebecca and her family lived in New York City where she facilitated Free Forest School sessions in Central Park and wrote for The Urban Audubon while continuing to serve on the board of the Detroit Audubon and co-editing their quarterly publication, The Flyway. As a full-time mom of two, Rebecca now resides in Illinois and enjoys birding with her children in their backyard. In her spare time, she draws, trail runs, and is currently working on her first book.

Jessica Vaughan is the editor of BWD magazine, formerly Bird Watcher’s Digest, which she has had a long association with, having interned at the magazine as a student at Marietta College (Ohio). She spent the first part of her career in educational publishing, working as an editor for McGraw-Hill and Zaner-Bloser before co-founding Longbourn Editorial Services. She came back to Bird Watcher’s Digest several years ago as a freelance proofreader, then was brought on staff as assistant editor after the untimely passing of editor Bill Thompson III, and is now leading the editorial team in the magazine’s new iteration. It wasn’t until Jessica was in her mid-30s that birding firmly took hold of her. She was a new mother, working from home, and the days were long. She found that birding offered an outlet to the challenges of raising young children, and it was something she could do in her backyard, at the playground—anywhere. Now a mother of four, she is always striving to submerge her kiddos in nature, and they are frequent visitors of the many metro parks near their Columbus, Ohio, home. Like her predecessor BT3, Jessica has a special passion for young birders and helping them grow their birding interests and abilities, and she is delighted to be able to combine that passion with her editorial skills to serve as a writing mentor for the ABA YBYMP.

Emily Bingham

Neil Hayward

Rebecca Minardi

Jessica Vaughan

Dorian Anderson was born in Philadelphia and developed a backyard birding interest at age seven. He attended several of Victor Emanuel’s birding camps and envisioned himself as an ornithologist until he was exposed to Molecular and Cellular Biology at Stanford. He graduated with a B.S. in that discipline, did predoctoral research in molecular embryology at Harvard, and earned his Ph.D. in Developmental Genetic and Molecular Cell Biology from NYU before beginning his Postdoctoral Fellowship in Molecular Neuroscience at Massachusetts General Hospital. However, three years into that frustrating endeavor, Dorian decided it was time to leave the laboratory and reconnect with his birding roots. He bought a bicycle and — with no cycling experience — undertook the first (and still only) continent-wide bicycle Big Year in 2014. He outlasted feet of snow, several accidents, and visited 28 states along his 18,000-mile arc. He ultimately found 618 species and raised over $48,000 for bird conservation. When not working on his upcoming book about his adventure, he leads birding and photography tours for Tropical Birding. You can see his photography at www.dorianandersonphotography.com. Outside of biking, birding, and photography, Dorian likes sports, pizza, donuts, ice cream, dogs, and world travel. He considers his binoculars, camera, and passport his most valuable possessions. He and his wife live in San Mateo, California.

Maresa Pryor-Luzier is a professional natural history photographer and recent author of the Did You Know? book series for children 4-8 years of age. Her images have appeared worldwide in books, magazines, and fine art prints. She currently speaks at birding festivals on photography and leads photo workshops. She is represented by Danita Delimont Stock Photography, and is a founding member of the North American Nature Photography Association. She resides in New Mexico with her husband and is the public lands chair for the Back Country Horsemen of New Mexico.

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

Dorian Anderson

Maresa Pryor-Luzier

Mia McPherson

Christina Baal is an artist, illustrator, and environmental educator whose dream is to meet and paint 10,000 species of birds over her lifetime. After graduating from Bard College in 2014, she started her art business, “Drawing 10,000 Birds,” and has since traveled nonstop looking for birds. Christina loves going to bird festivals to sow her work, lead trips, teach art, and spend time with the birding community. She has designed work artwork for the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, the Biggest Week in American Birding, the New River Birding and Nature Festival, New Jersey Audubon’s World Series of Birding, and created the Bird of the Year artwork for the American Birding Association in 2022. In between festivals, Christina works as an environmental educator and is a certified Master Naturalist for Wisconsin and California. Christina currently gets to live alongside her favorite bird, the California Condor, in Pinnacles National Park with her partner- a California Condor biologist- and their two golden retrievers.

Julie Davis
is past president of the Ohio Ornithological Society, a statewide birding organization with over 600 members. She is currently the chair of the board of directors of the American Birding Association. Julie has been birding for over 20 years. She has birded in many parts of the US as well as Belize, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, South Africa, the Galapagos and Trinidad & Tobago. She has led birding trips for Columbus Audubon, OOS, Black Swamp Bird Observatory and Wild Birds Unlimited Westerville, along with Touch the Earth Adventures. She has a degree in graphic design from Purdue University.  She is an active hiker, kayaker, and fiber artist.

Andrew Guttenberg is a birder and colored pencil illustrator from Bozeman, Montana. He started drawing as a kid in small town eastern Montana, eventually studying printmaking at Montana State University, and now does bird artwork professionally. Current projects include a Caribbean birds field guide and posters for Caracara CR, an initiative in Costa Rica using nature art to raise funds for Red-throated Caracara research and conservation. In the past, Andrew illustrated two covers for Birding Magazine, including the 2013 bird of the year, Common Nighthawk!

Besides illustration, Andrew is an avid county and patch birder in Montana, and an eBird reviewer for the prairie pothole region of the state. He also tries to get into the tropics at least once a year, usually to Costa Rica or to his wife’s home country of Brazil.

Marky Mutchler spent her time in high school looking for ways to involve herself in the birding community, which at the time, culminated in being named Young Birder of the Year in 2015. Since being named young birder of the year, she has spent the last decade using her interests and passions as a force to both build her career and to help others discover their own paths. 

She now lives in Los Angeles, California as an NSF-funded researcher at the Moore Laboratory of Zoology, where she is able to combine both her skills as an ornithologist, illustrator, and communicator into collaborative and publishable work. She holds a B.S. in Biological Sciences from Louisiana State University, which has aided in her continued efforts to be involved in academia, with the next step being graduate school. 

Marky has been a part of several field-based positions, ranging from research experiences along the Rio Grande in New Mexico, to tour guiding and outreach in central Michigan, and even to the depths of the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil. Despite the incredible variety of her experiences, all have been linked together with one central mission: to inspire others. This mentoring position is an extension of this goal, and Marky is more than excited to help guide the newest members of the birding world.

Christina Baal

Julie Davis

Andrew Guttenberg

Marky Mutchler