2017 Biggest Week Workshop and Program Instructors
This page contains biographies of our workshop and program instructors. Click on each photo to read the full biography. Please go to the Workshop Page or the Program Page to see details of all the workshops and programs!
To see biographies of our outstanding keynote speakers, click here!
To see biographies of our many wonderful field trip leaders and drivers, click here!
To see biographies of our outstanding keynote speakers, click here!
To see biographies of our many wonderful field trip leaders and drivers, click here!
DR. ANDY JONES // Dr. Andy Jones is a wee bit obsessed with birds; he is a professional ornithologist as well as a dedicated birder. He is the Curator of Ornithology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in Cleveland. Ohio. He holds the William A. and Nancy R. Klamm Endowed Chair of Ornithology, and in 2011, he was also named Director of Science, overseeing all activities in the Collections & Research Division. As a curator, Dr. Jones is responsible for the Museum's collection of avian specimens, which consists of more than 30,000 study skins from around the world plus a frozen tissue collection, skeletons, and nests and eggs. His current research involves the evolutionary history of birds from the Appalachian mountains and the Philippines, as well as myriad other natural history topics, particularly the wildlife of Costa Rica. Dr. Jones was among 14 prominent American ornithologists to be named an Elective Member of the American Ornithologists' Union in 2009, and he was elected as Secretary of that organization in 2015. He originally hails from east Tennessee, where his passion for natural history began at an early age (including field notes starting at age 5). He lives in Cleveland Heights with his wife Michelle Leighty-Jones.
BRIAN ZWIEBEL // In 1993 Brian began his journey with birds by enrolling in an ornithology class at Hocking College. Six years later he began photographing the subjects he had come to know so well. His extensive photo files include more than 400 species of birds from every corner of North America. Brian has also pursued his bird photography passion in tropical locations of Central and South America as well as Africa. Some of his most memorable trips have been to the arctic and sub-arctic regions of Alaska including Barrow, Nome, the Aleutian Islands, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. His experiences leading photography tours at Barrow led to the creation of the CD book The Site Guide to Barrow Alaska. Brian’s work has been prominently displayed in exhibits throughout Ohio. More than thirty of his songbird images were featured at the National Center for Nature Photography in Toledo, OH. His award-winning photography has been internationally published in various books and magazine including Birding World, Bird Watching, and the American Birding Association’s magazine Birding. Brian is co-owner and founder of Sabrewing Nature Tours where clients learn to photograph like pros, and experience nature like they have never seen it before. Brian is the District Loss Prevention manager for the Kroger Co., covering more than 20 stores in Northwest Ohio. He and his wife Stacey also raise paint horses on their farm in Oregon, OH, where they enjoy raising one or two foals each spring.
CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR // Christopher Taylor's talents are a rare combination of science, industry, and art. With no formal training in photography, Christopher has instead relied on his knowledge of computer science to engage with the photographic medium and has mastered a technical approach. He has been using the camera to observe and document wildlife since his first journey to Alaska in 1997 with his father; both are avid birders. By the time he reached adulthood, Christopher had been birding in all 50 states. Christopher was born and reared in Southern California, and currently resides in Marina del Rey. Locally, he is involved with several non-profit organizations aimed at protecting ecology, and-by extension or directly-avian habitats.
CHUCK SLUSARCZYK, JR. // Born in Phoenix, Arizona but raised in the Cleveland, Ohio area, Chuck is a lifelong birder and photographer with a recent passion for gulls... something he admits is a very difficult topic and that the more he learns, the less he seems to know! He enjoys teaching new birders and having fun along the way. His interest in birds began at a very young age, even before attending his first bird walks in 1975. The Cleveland Audubon Society honored him with an award at age fifteen for "Outstanding Contribution in the Field of Conservation," and he won a bird identification contest sponsored by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in the same year. Chuck is an avid member of the Ohio birding community, and his efforts to assist and educate birders via social media are well known, yet he is the first to admit that one never stops learning! Chuck has presented a number of programs for different birding organizations where he shares his photos and stories. His photography has appeared in many print publications and birding sites online, as well as on his personal Facebook pages. Chuck is a former Seasonal Naturalist with Cleveland Metroparks and a member of the National Association for Interpretation (NAI), and a graduate of the Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist program (OCVN), and he looks forward to seeing you at the Biggest Week in American Birding 2017!
EDDIE KASPER // Eddie Kasper (14) is a young birder from Western Springs, Il. He’s not sure when his interest in birds began, but his parents told him it was before he turned five years old. He has been seriously birding for eight years now and has been a member of the Illinois Young Birders Club since he was nine. He did a mini big year back in 2013, which ended with 466 birds, and in July 2016 he reached his #500 ABA bird, with a small flock of Sagebrush Sparrows, in southwest Wyoming. On top of all the birds, he has been able to collect a large group of fellow birding friends, which has added to his love of this pastime. He enjoys photography, traveling and being outdoors, and his three great passions in life are birding, sports, and desserts. To find out more about Eddie, you can visit his blog at www.kidbirder.com.
ERIK BRUHNKE // Erik Bruhnke has had a love for birds since he was a child. He graduated from Northland College in Wisconsin with a Natural Resources degree in 2008. Erik taught field ornithology various times at Northland College. During his first six fall seasons following college, Erik worked as an interpreter at Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in Duluth, Minnesota and was a board member of the Duluth Audubon Society. Two years ago he counted migrating raptors at the Corpus Christi HawkWatch in Texas and more recently at the Cape May Hawk Watch in New Jersey during the fall of 2016. Erik’s wildlife photography has won national awards, and his writings have been featured in Birder’s Guide via the American Birding Association, BirdWatching, and Birdwatcher’s Digest. Erik leads tours for Victor Emanuel Nature Tours as well as his own business, Naturally Avian Birding Tours. He loves to cook and bake in his free time, often while sipping bird-friendly coffee.
CATHERINE HAMILTON // Catherine was pretty much born with a pencil in hand, and began birding at an early age with her father. A professional exhibiting artist for over 25 years, lately she has also been sharing her passion through speaking, teaching, and guiding tours. Catherine loves working with birders and artists of all levels, and believes that anyone can gain a greater understanding of the world around them through field sketching and observation. Catherine holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design and a Master of Fine Arts in Painting from Bennington College. She taught painting and drawing at RISD from 1997-2003, and has taught at other institutions and programs (Bennington College, Mass College of Art, Mass Audubon) throughout the 25 years she has been a professional artist. Working out of wildlife refuges, urban environments, research stations, and museum collections, Catherine has been following birds around the country and the world, making drawings and paintings. Her fine art can be found in private, corporate, and small museum collections in the US and abroad. Her bird illustrations can be found in publications like the Princeton University Press book The Warbler Guide, and in journals and magazines such as Nature, Bird Observer, and Orion Magazine. Catherine was also featured in the 2012 HBO documentary “Birders: the Central Park Effect.” Catherine is honored to be one of five worldwide ZEISS Birding Ambassadors, and works with ZEISS and partner organizations such as Birdlife International to help promote conservation awareness through art.
STEPHEN INGRAHAM // Steve Ingraham, the “Point and Shoot Nature Photographer,” has been photographing nature for going on 60 years. For the past 10 years he has used only relatively inexpensive "superzoom" point and shoot cameras. He publishes a daily photo blog at called Pic for the Day (p4td.lightshedder.com) and an extensive site dedicated to “P&S” nature photography (psnp.lightshedder.com). He was, for 11 years, the Birding Specialist for ZEISS Sports Optics, and is a familiar face around the birding festival circuit and in the larger birding community. His "For the love of landscape..." collection on Google+ has over 200,000 followers.
KEVIN KARLSON // Kevin Karlson is an accomplished birder, professional tour leader, and wildlife photographer who has published many bird and nature articles for magazines, books, and journals. He is a regular presence at bird and nature festivals in North America, where he gives keynote presentations and workshops on bird identification and appreciation, as well as photo instruction. His photos can be seen in numerous locations, including on his website kevintkarlson.com. Kevin is a co-author of The Shorebird Guide (Houghton Mifflin Co. 2006), and the author/photographer of two photography books titled The Birds of Cape May and Visions: Earth’s Elements in Bird and Nature Photography (Schiffer Publishing, 2010, 2012). His most recent book with wife and co-author Dale Rosselet, Birding by Impression: A Different Approach to Knowing and Identifying Birds, was released in May 2015 in the Roger Tory Peterson Reference Series at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers. His new book with Pete Dunne Birds of Prey will be released by HMH in April 2017. Kevin recently produced five photographic laminated foldout guides for Quick Reference Publishing of Florida: Raptors of Eastern and Western North America (2012), Waterfowl of North America (2013), Warblers of North America and Shorebirds of North America (2014). A former photo editor for North American Birds, he also wrote the Birder’s ID column and served as an Advisory Board member for Wild Bird Magazine from 1992 to 2012.
LAURA GUERARD // Laura is an avid naturalist and birder who has devoted her career to sharing her passion for birds and nature through environmental education programs. Laura founded the Coastal Maine Bird Studies for Teens camp on Hog Island and has served as a mentor to both young birders and educators alike. As the Education Director at BSBO she has the privilege of serving as the Statewide Coordinator for the Ohio Young Birders Club. You can learn more about the OYBC here. http://www.ohioyoungbirders.org/
LISA RAINSONG // Lisa Rainsong holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Composition from the Cleveland Institute of Music and is a member of CIM’s music theory faculty. A soprano as well as a teacher and composer, she sings with the professional early music ensemble Quire Cleveland. Lisa also earned a Naturalist Certificate from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, where her study focused on field experience. She now teaches birdsong classes and does field recording of bird songs and insect songs. In addition, she does field research on crickets and katydids – research work that is done primarily by ear. Her recordings and photos can be found on her blog Listening in Nature at listeninginnature.blogspot.com.
LUKE TILLER // Originally from London, England, Luke transplanted to the United States in 2003. He has traveled the world to witness raptor migration and has experience counting raptors in North America, Europe, and the Middle East. He has written about raptors for publications here in the US and in Europe, including Audubon Magazine, Birdwatch Magazine, and ABA’s Birding Magazine. Since 2012 Luke has sat on the Hawk Migration Association of North America Board, and he has recently been reelected to a second term. Luke is currently based in Altadena, California, and is employed as a professional tour guide by Sunrise Birding LLC.
MICHAEL O'BRIEN // Michael 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; there he conducts numerous workshops and for many years led 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 most recent Peterson field guides. Michael also has an intense interest in butterflies, coordinating the Cape May Butterfly Count and leading several “Birds & Butterflies” tours with his wife Louise Zemaitis.
NATHAN PIEPLOW // Nathan Pieplow teaches writing and rhetoric at the University of Colorado. A birder since childhood, he has studied bird sounds since 2003. He is the former editor of the journal Colorado Birds and an author of the Colorado Birding Trail. He blogs about bird sounds at Earbirding.com.
ROB RIPMA // Rob Ripma, a lifelong Indiana resident, is co-owner of Sabrewing Nature Tours, leading birding and photography trips in the US and Central and South America. He is also the owner and creator of www.NuttyBirder.com, “the place to go to find birds”. Rob is currently the President of the board of directors of the Amos Butler Audubon Society in Indianapolis, IN and is on the board for Ohio's Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO). He is co-founder of the Indiana Young Birders Club and speaks at a variety of organizations and schools about birds and birding to share his knowledge and experiences in the field. Rob loves working with new and experienced birders of all ages, and believes that teaching people about birds will not only increase interest in birding but also help them better understand why we must work to protect birds and their habitats. He has become the primary bird blogger for Birds & Blooms Magazine. Rob graduated from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business in 2008 with a degree in Marketing and lives with his wife Stephanie in Carmel, Indiana.
SCOTT WHITTLE // Scott Whittle has 20 years of experience as a professional photographer and educator. His B.A. in Literature from Northwestern University and M.F.A. in Photography from the School of Visual Arts reflect his passions for writing and photography. His love of learning and exploration has taken him to over 30 countries and all but four U.S. states. He is a one-time Big Year record holder for New York State, his and Tom’s team holds the U.S. Photo Big Day record, and he co-authored The Warbler Guide and The Warbler Guide App with Tom Stephenson. His work has been published in a wide variety of well-known newspapers, magazines, and other media outlets. After an extensive photography career in New York City, he now lives and works in Cape May, NJ.
MARK SHIELDCASTLE // Mark Shieldcastle has a degree in Wildlife Management from The Ohio State University. He was on staff at Ohio State with the Ohio Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit before accepting a position with the Ohio Division of Wildlife where he has spent thirty-two years as a Wildlife Biologist specializing in avian research and in 2012 he retired from his position as Project Leader of Wetland Wildlife Research. Mark was a founding member of BSBO and currently serves as the Director of Research. He has conducted research on Bald Eagle, colonial waders, terns, wetland breeding birds, woodcock, shorebirds, colonial passerines, waterfowl, rails, cranes, migrating raptors, and migrating passerines. Mark co-authored the Beneficial Use Impairments for Wildlife and Wildlife Habitat portion of the Lake Erie Management Plan which is part of the Clean Water Act; The Great Lakes-Upper Mississippi River Regional Plan of the National Shorebird Plan; The Great Lakes-Upper Mississippi River Regional Plan of the North American Waterbird Plan; and has contributed to several of the regional plans of Partners-in-Flight. Mark has authored or co-authored a variety of papers on passerines, Bald Eagles, cormorants, and contaminant issues with birds. He developed recovery plans for the Bald Eagle, Osprey, Common Tern, Black-crowned Night-Heron, and Sandhill Crane in Ohio.
TOM STEPHENSON // Tom Stephenson has been birding since he was a kid under the tutelage of Dr. Arthur Allen of Cornell University. His articles and photographs are in museums and many publications including Birding, Birdwatcher’s Digest, Handbook of the Birds and Handbook of the Mammals of the World, and Guide to the Birds of SE Brazil. He has lectured and guided many groups across the US as well as Asia, where he trained guides for the government of Bhutan. He has donated many recordings of African and Eastern Himalayan rarities and other species to Cornell’s Macaulay Library of Natural sounds. He was on Zeiss’s digiscoping team for the World Series of Birding and in 2011 his team won the World Series Cape Island Cup. Tom and his team also hold the US record for a Photo Big Day, capturing 208 species on camera in a 24-hour period. As a musician he played concerts and did studio work for many years, working with several Grammy and Academy Award winners as well as performing with members of the NY Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra. His clients included the Grateful Dead, Phil Collins, and the FBI. He joined Roland Corporation in 1991, managed the recorder division, and retired recently as Director of Technology. His latest book, The Warbler Guide, is published by Princeton University Press and recently won the National Outdoor Book Award. The Warbler Guide App just won the 2015 Design Award for AAUP Book, Jacket and Journal Show. His new app BirdGenie is a “shazam” for bird song, and should be available late 2015. Tom is endorsed by Zeiss Sports Optics.
KEVIN LOUGHLIN // Kevin was raised to appreciate nature while exploring the woodlands of Pennsylvania as a child. At age six, during a family trip through the American West, Kevin became fascinated with photography as well as seeing the new and different birds throughout North America. Instilled with a love for travel and seeking new, exciting destinations he felt a desire to share his experiences with others and in 1993 he founded Wildside Nature Tours. Kevin's photographs and articles have appeared in publications such as WildBird, Audubon, and Philadelphia Magazines, as well as the National Geographic web site and many natural history books. He has also authored a Pocket Guide to Digital Nature Photography. Kevin teaches beginning birding and photography classes through several adult education venues as well as through seminars and workshops for groups, organizations, and schools. Currently the vice president of the Birding Club of Delaware County, Kevin also founded the PA Young Birder's Club, sharing his love of nature while inspiring kids to get outside.
KENN KAUFMAN // A lifelong naturalist, Kenn Kaufman did not really focus on birds until the age of six, but since then he has tried to make up for lost time, pursuing birds in all fifty states and on all seven continents. Now working as a freelance editor, writer, and book producer, he and his wife Kim make their home in Oak Harbor, Ohio. Kenn is a field editor for Audubon magazine, and writes a regular column for Birder’s World magazine. Most of his energy currently goes into book projects, including his own field guide series, Kaufman Field Guides, published by Houghton Mifflin Company of Boston. This series now includes volumes on North American birds, butterflies, mammals, insects, a field guide to Advanced Birding, and a regional guide to Nature of New England. His newest title is Field Guide to the Nature of the Midwest, which was published in April 2015. In spring 2005, Kaufman Field Guides published the first Spanish-language guide to North American birds. Kenn’s other books include Lives of North American Birds, Kingbird Highway, and Flights Against the Sunset. He has also written scores of magazine articles and columns on I.D. topics, and has taught I.D. workshops all over the U.S. and Canada.