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.
2022 Joel Such
Joel Such is a conservation biologist, wildlife photographer, and bird guide from Lyons, Colorado. Growing up in the foothills of the Front Range, Joel’s intense passion for the avian world was fully ignited by age two. Ever since, Joel has pursued birds with unwavering devotion and has contributed to a wide range of biological field projects and environmental education in both the United States and Latin America. Pursuing his master’s degree in conservation biology at Prescott College, Joel’s field research focuses on bird and mammal populations of the cloud forests of Colombia’s Western Andes where he currently lives. With an overarching goal of effectively contributing to the world of conservation, Joel is deeply committed to community-based conservation and multicultural, collaborative projects which build support for birds across their entire range.
Joel has developed the Tatamá Bird Monitoring Program in the Western Andes of Colombia. His presentation at the festival discussed the development of a new bird monitoring program in Tatamá National Natural Park and its buffer zone in the Western Andes of Colombia. Through long-term monitoring and the use of an innovative and rigorous data collection protocol, the Tatamá Bird Monitoring Program aims to generate baseline data of the region’s bird life, identify population trends, increase the knowledge of understudied species and ecological communities, inform conservation actions, contribute knowledge to local and scientific communities, and build bridges between stakeholders.
2020 Hannah Clipp
Hannah Clipp discovered a passion for birding and bird research seven years ago during a summer spent studying dickcissels and other grassland songbirds on Konza Prairie in Kansas. In 2018, Hannah completed her Master’s degree in Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware, where she used weather surveillance radar data to study land bird migration and stopover ecology along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Hannah as completed her doctoral degree in Natural Resources Science at West Virginia University. Hannah’s dissertation research focused on the effects of climate change and landscape-scale forest management on bird communities, abundance, and nest success in the Appalachian Mountains. While Covid cancelled the 2020 festival we pleased that Hannah will was able to attend the 2022 Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival and present on how weather surveillance radar systems are being utilized to generate data on bird and other wildlife migrations. You can follow Hannah’s field exploits on her Facebook platform – All That Wildlife.
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.
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 and has now spent portions of the last 8 summers doing this work. Sarah has recently completed her Masters degree from Iowa State University.
After graduating from Tufts, Henry worked a series on seasonal field projects, including managing a private reserve/bird banding station in Ecuador. While the Ecuador project was cut short due, to Covid, an exciting new opportunity opened up with Henry getting word of his acceptance into Georgetown University for a PhD in Biology. Henry is now a PhD student at Georgetown studying macroscale ecology of migratory songbirds using American Redstarts as a primary study species. In his personal time, Henry continues to bird around the world and contemplate embarking on a green big year pursuit (a big year without utilizing modes of transportation that consume fossil fuels).
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. He has gone on to complete his MS at Alabama, his PhD at the University of Wisconsin and is now doing PostDoc work at Michigan State University. You can see what Neil has been working on by reviewing his website;
2014 Aspen Ellis
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. Post graduation Aspen performed seabird monitoring for the Alaska Maritime NWR and is now pursuing her PhD at UC Santa Clara where she will be studying the impacts of wind energy on seabirds and marine life.
2013 Paulina Maria Sarabina
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 Johnson
Andy completed his 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 is currently a producer at Cornell Lab of Ornithology. To view and example of Andy’s work follow click the link that follows:
2011 Michael Hilchey
When applying to come to the Kachemak Bay shorebird Festival, Michael called birding a 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. Tyler has broadened his interest of the natural world and is involved in fishing for exotic species all over the world. You can follow his fishing adventures on Facebook or YouTube by following Spilt Milt Productions.
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, Sam spent several summers researching shorebirds and their breeding ecology on the Alaskan tundra in Nome and the Yukon Delta. She is now a Senior Research Ecologist with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) in the UK, where she has the opportunity to apply her passion for shorebirds (waders in the UK) by leading the BTO’s breeding wader research program and several projects on Eurasian Curlew. In her spare time, she enjoys catching and ringing (banding) shorebirds with the Wash Wader Research Group. To view a video on the work BTO (spoiler alert Samantha makes an appearance) click on the YouTube link below.
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 in the suburbs of and he knew from a young age that birding and travel would factor heavily in his future. He crossed the country to attend college in California, where during his senior year he was awarded the Schantz Brothers Foundation scholarship. Helping point out birds to festival-goers on the Homer Spit was one of his first experiences guiding birders, and there was no going back. After graduating from college, he found a job guiding birders in Ecuador for an international birding tour company, before moving to South Africa where he spent nearly four years as a full time guide, leading trips throughout Southern Africa, Madagascar, Asia and beyond. He eventually moved back to Chicago, where after years of working as an ornithologist at the Field Museum, he founded his own birding tour company, Red Hill Birding, in 2016. Click on the link below to learn more about Red Hill Birding.