Michael Hilchey with Kit and Dean Schantz at Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival

The Foundation has been pleased to sponsor young persons to participate in past Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festivals in Homer, Alaska since 2002.  Below are updates on what these young people have been up to since visiting Homer for the Shorebird Festival.  We don’t know how much impact attending the festival has had on these young budding naturalists, but we are proud of what they continue to accomplish and any impact the Foundation may have had on crafting their future.

2019 Henry Stevens and Sarah Hoephner

In 2019 we had a very difficult time narrowing down our selection from the many fine applications we received.  So much so that we elected to send two receipts to the shorebird festival.

Sarah Hoephner

When attending the festival Sarah was completing her biology degree with an emphasis on ecology and biodiversity at Humboldt State College in northern California but was excited to be able to come back to Alaska for a visit to the Shorebird Festival.   Sarah presented on her work doing research with USFWS on shorebird nesting sites on the artic coastal plains.  Her family operates a commercial fishing boat during the season out of Cordova.

Henry Stevens

When attending the shorebird festival Henry was a senior at Tufts working to complete his joint degree in biology and environmental sciences.  Henry is the founder of the Tufts Ornithological Society and presented at the festival on this senior honors thesis focused on prioritization of sites for the Western Hemisphere Reserve Network (WHSRN).

2018 Marcel Such

Marcel’s interest in birds was sparked at the age of six and evolved into an obsession shortly thereafter.  Marcel is a native of Colorado who regularly serves as a guide for ABA, Colorado Field Ornithologists and Western Field Ornithologists outings.  Marcel has recently completed a double major in Environmental Biology and Mathematics at Western State Colorado University in Gunnison, CO where he also served as a volunteer lek monitor at the Wuanita Gunnison Sage-Grouse lek.   In high school and continuing into college, Marcel developed his second passion of running.  This would explain the title of his blog, the Cursorial Birder, where you can check out his latest adventures.

2017 Neil Gilbert

A rabid birder from the age of five, Neil grew up watching birds in Michigan and California. He graduated in 2014 with bachelor’s degrees in biology and Spanish from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. After graduating, he spent two years as an itinerant barista/environmental educator/field technician before commencing a M.S. at the University of Alabama in 2016, where he studies avian responses to land cover change.

2014 Aspen Ellisaspen-ellis-snip

Ms. Ellis is a college student at Michigan University in Ann Arbor, Michigan who is an avid birder and artist with a particular interest in ornithology. Specifically she has studied cooperative breeding behaviors and seabird conservation strategies.  She has spent two the summers working on the islands off the coast of Maine as a volunteer research assistant for the Seabird Restoration Project.  Her work on this project was focused on monitoring the breeding populations of terns and alcids.  While at Michigan she is currently working at the Evolutionary Biology Laboratory with 2003 Schantz Brothers Memorial Foundation recipient, Ben Winger.

2013 Paulina Maria Sarabinapaulina-with-eagles

Paulina has worked extensively on research in the state of Nayarit, MX, which has a large area of wetlands which belong to the Natural Protected Area (recently decreted as Biosphere Reserve by the Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas – National Commission of Natural Protected Areas) “Marismas Nacionales” (MN).  This vast area of approx. 300,000 hectares provides critical shorebirds and waterfowl and waterfowl habitat in Mexico.

Click on the link below to read Ms. Sarabina’s post discussing her experience attending the Kachemak Bay Shorebird festival as the recipient of the 2013 Timothy Schantz Foundation award


2012 Andy Johnsonandy-j-image

In the spring of 2012, Andy completed his second year at Cornell where he is pursuing a degree in Biology with a focus on ecology and evolutionary biology. His birding experiences extend well beyond the class room as he has participated in field studies from Churchill, Manitoba to Chile.  Andy’s interest in birds started early in life while growing up in Michigan.  That early interest in birds has now expanded to encompass natural ecosystems and the impacts of development on these systems and the life within.  Another passion of Andy’s is photography and film, which he intends to use to communicate the complex issues that result from the clash of economic, environmental and ethical factors in the developing world.

2011 Michael Hilchey


When applying to come to the Kachemak Bay shorebird Festival, Michael called birding creed and a way of life. And for him this is certainly true – he spent a significant amount of time during his pursuit of a B.S. in Biology at the University of New Mexico working on a wide variety of bird related research projects.  Species studied include Gray Vireos, Hummingbirds and Rosy-Finches.  His presentation at the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival was on the Sandia Rosy-Finch Research Project.

2010 Marie Helene Burke

Banding a Tuamotu Sandpiper in French Polynesia


Marie Helene Burke grew up in France and has worked on avian research projects all over the world.  She is currently working on completing her PhD at Simon Frasier University in British Columbia.  Ms. Burke is continuing her study of the Tuamota Sandpiper and this summer will be spending her second full season on the remote atolls of French Polynesia where this species lives.  In addition to the ongoing collection of demographic, phenologic and breeding data of this unique species, a study to determine the potential for recolonization of this species to a small island where a rat removal project has been performed will be completed.

2009 Peggy Kuhn Darr


Peggy acquired her love of birds and nature while growing up in the woods of Vermont. She received a BS in Environmental Studies from the University of Vermont and a Master of Science degree in Wildlife Biology from Louisiana State `University.  Over the years, she has worked with a number of bird species including, piping plovers in Massachusetts, Attwater’s prairie chickens in Texas, ducks in North Dakota and spotted owls in North Cascades National Park.  She recently left her position as Coordinator of Nature Tours and Ornithologist at the 825,000 acre King Ranch in Texas to serve as the Nature Preserve Manager for the Medina River Natural Area south of San Antonio, Texas.

2008 Caitlin Robinson Nilsen


Caitlin became a passionate birder while working as a research assistant in the rainforest of Australia. Her passion for shorebirds grew while walking the beaches every day for 6 months in her work monitoring the piping plover population on Long Island, N.Y. She completed her master’s thesis based on the western snowy plover use of former commercial salt ponds in the South San Francisco Bay at San Jose State University. Caitlin is now the Waterbird Program Director at the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory. She is currently researching California Gulls and their impact on Snowy Plovers. She also manages an Avian Disease Prevention Program for the SFBBO.

2007 Jessie Barry


Jessie Barry’s passion for birds was sparked at the age of ten in her hometown of Rochester, New York. However, her interest in birds started even earlier in life as her first word was duck. Jessie graduated from the University of Washington after completing a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She was previously involved in research at the Burke Museum and is currently the Assistant Curator of Audio at Macauley Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. She writes for Birding and WildBird magazines, and is a contributing author for the National Geographic Complete Birds of North America. She has also authored a well received book, Good Birder’s Don’t Wear White: 50 Tips from North America’s Top Birder’s.

2006 Tyler Hicks


Tyler Hicks began birding at the age of 10 and distinctly remembers the first bird he recorded in his Golden Guide, an Eastern Screech-Owl. Tyler has come to believe he has been hardwired to be a birder and as a young man left formal education behind to bird through out North America and later do bird research in Asia.  His experience in Asia led to Tyler becoming very active in the Saemangeum estuary reclamation project in Korea.  His experiences there also made him realize that to maximize the attention he wanted to bring to habitat destruction issues in Asia he needed to sacrifice his freedoms for the short term and complete his college education. Tyler has also spent two seasons in the swamps of the Florida panhandle searching for proof of the continued existence of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker.  At last report he was working to complete his degree and continue his passionate study of the natural world.

2005 Samantha Franks


Samantha discovered a passion for ornithology at the relatively late age of 21 while working on a project studying reproductive biology of passerines near Churchill, Manitoba.  Sam was first introduced to both shorebirds and Alaska after receiving the Schantz shorebird scholarship in 2005. This initial introduction has sparked a decade-long (sure to be life-long) obsession with both. Sam is now a Research Ecologist with the British Trust for Ornithology in the UK, after completing her PhD at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada on the migration patterns of Western Sandpipers. After several years spent researching shorebirds and their breeding ecology on the Alaskan tundra in Nome and the Yukon Delta, she now has the opportunity to apply her passion for shorebirds in the UK. In her spare time, she enjoys catching and ringing (banding) shorebirds with the Wash Wader Ringing Group.

2004 Ed Conrad


Ed Conrad grew up discovering his home state of Utah with this father – generally using birding as an excuse for the travel and time together.  He went on to graduate from Westminster College with a B.S. in Biology, where upon the role birds play in his life expanded.  Ed spent the summer after college graduation hiking the Appalachian Trail and encountered 144 species and 27 life birds along the trail to Maine.  He has subsequently studied birds in Costa Rica, Jamaica, Canada and remote atolls in the Pacific, banding over 3,500 birds along the way.  He is excited about his new position as Bird-biologist Educator at the Starr Ranch Sanctuary in Orange County, CA.

2003 Ben Winger


Ben has been a birder since the age of 12 when he discovered birding while on a family vacation in the Teton Mountains.  He still recalls the thrill of identifying his first bird, a Clark’s Nutcracker that had flown across the trail, with the aid of a family friend and his field guide.  He earned a BA from Cornell University in 2007, completed his PhD on Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago while working at the Field Museum of Natural History.  He is now an Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Curator of Birds at the Museum of Zoology at the University of Michigan.  Ben’s research is focused on speciation and biogeography, particularly in Neotropical birds.  As his first trip outside the lower 48, Ben believes the trip to the shorebird festival was formative in his desire to travel far and wide to study birds.

2002 Josh Engel


Josh grew up near Chicago, where he discovered the joys of birding along the Lake Michigan shoreline at a young age.  He was soon crisscrossing the US with other young birders before attending college in southern California. After graduating in 2004 he participated in various bird-related research projects around the world, eventually landing a job as a birding guide for the international tour operator Tropical Birding.  He was originally based in Quito, Ecuador, followed by three years based out of their Capetown, South Africa office, leading tours throughout southern Africa, Madagascar, and Ecuador.  He has recently returned to Chicago where he studies birds at the Field Museum and conducts field work in Africa.