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Watch Now: Birds, Birders, and Bias

birds in eye
(Image: Christopher Buzelli)

Watch | Presenter Bios | Resources

How is data collected for declining bird species? What are the odds of correct identification? What are some of the realities for black birders? How can more people of all backgrounds help track the health of the world’s 10,000+ bird species?

VPM Science Matters connected 225 lifelong learners with two local, scientific thinkers who spoke about some of the WHY, WHO and HOW of bird counts, a critical component in species and habitat conservation.


This Science Pub RVA program was recorded on August 31, 2020 and contains two talks, each with distinct Q&A segments.

Video: Birds, Birding, and Bias recorded August 31, 2020

Part 1 (beginning at 3:56) :  “Detection Probability” with Daniel Allbrecht-Mallinger 

Part 2 (beginning at 35:46):  “Birding While Black” with John L. Ditto, Jr., M.D. 


Dan Albrecht-Mallinger recently figured out how to breathe into his mask without fogging his binoculars, which has immeasurably improved his experience of social distancing. Dan works for VCU's Center for Environmental Studies, teaching undergraduate classes on sustainability, environmental history, and applied statistics. He has worked with birds since 2006 and completed his M.Sc. at VCU studying Golden-winged Warbler conservation in Virginia's Appalachian counties.


John L. Ditto, Jr., M.D. carries a humorous “black man card” in his wallet gifted to him by office colleagues who jested that his birding hobby could lead to identity confusion. Dr. Dittos is a board-certified Otolaryngology head and neck surgeon and a fellow of the American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery. He received his medical degree at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine, Columbia, MO. Dr. John L. Ditto Jr. received his ENT surgical training at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan and has published in the Archives of Otolaryngology. Dr. Ditto has served as the Richmond Audubon Society’s Field Trip Coordinator and occasionally leads birding field trips on their behalf.   



Recommended resources mentioned in the video by the presenters and moderator:

  • BlackAFinSTEM - The founders of Black Birders Week.
  • #BlackBirdersWeek - A grassroots, week-long series of online events that highlight Black nature enthusiasts.
  • Cape May Bird Observatory - New Jersey’s largest center for bird education and research.
  • Cornell Lab of Ornithology - The world’s most renown bird research and conservation institute.
  • ebird - Largest database for people to store their observations of birds and make them available to scientists and conservationists.
  • HawkWatch - Raptor-specific education and conservation knowledge. 
  • iNaturalist - Popular tool for individuals and classes to learn about and contribute plant and animal observational data and images.
  • Richmond Audubon Society - Local chapter focused on enjoyment, education, and advocacy via meetings, field trips, and online activities in the greater Richmond, Virginia region.
  • Virginia Society of Ornithology - Our Commonwealth’s largest player in bird-focused research.
  • Xeno-canto - Recommended resource to learn about and share bird songs from around the world.


Recommendations submitted by attendees during the live chat:


Related PBS and NPR content: 


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This program was sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Joel Dugan and produced by Science Pub RVA.

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