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Deadline May 5, 2000

Ask the Expert

Meet the Oriole Expert, David Aborn

Dr. David Aborn
Dept. of Biological and Environmental Sciences
University of Tennesse at Chattanooga
Chattanooga, TN

1) Any childhood memory that was important in guiding you into your occupation?; how did you become interested in this Field?

As long as I can remember I have been interested in animals (except for a truck driver phase in 7th and 8th grades). The specific area I wanted to study varied (veterinarian, marine biologist, forest ranger, etc.), but it was always animal oriented.

2) Any person, role model or leading authority that greatly influenced you?

I guess early in my life it would be people like Jaques Costeau and Marlin Perkins. I never missed their shows, or any others like them. In high school, my biology teacher, Stella Koch, was a big influence. She nurtured and encouraged my interests, and I enjoyed her classes greatly. In college, Dr. Sid Gauthreaux (pronounced GO-troh) really solidified my interests in birds, behavior, and migration. Last, my doctoral advisor, Dr. Frank Moore, not only increased my interest in the field (which I didn't think was possible), but also never stops having fun regardless of what he is doing.

3) Your background:(job title, profession, education/training etc...)

I have a B.S. and M.S. from Clemson University in SC, and a Ph.D from the University of Southern Mississippi. This year, I have a project of my own starting in March that will be looking at migratory and breeding birds at a newly protected area called Lula Lake. I and an independent study student will be in the field every day, so I should be able to provide a lot of information about migration as it happens, in addition to getting reports from other people I know.

4) Favorite work story or experience: (One of your most exciting, memorable, or exhilarating experiences in the Field!)

So many to choose from!!! I guess if I HAD to choose I would pick the time when I witnessed an actual migratory fallout. I was working on a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico in the spring of 1991. We had one day that had been stormy all day. During a break in the storm, my collegues and I stepped out of our tents to stretch our legs. The wind was very strong from the northeast. We looked out at the Gulf and saw waves of migrants coming in, struggling against the wind. Many were too tired to make it the woods and flew into the grass and bushes in the dunes. We saw several hundred birds arrive. You could walk among the dunes and see each bush with a mixture of warblers, vireos, thrushes, tanagers, and cuckoos. Words cannot come close to describing what it was like!

5) What advice can you provide to a student who might be interested in working in your occupation some day?

Study! You will need anywhere from 4-12 years of college/graduate school, depending on what you want to do. You will take lots of different biology classes, along with math, chemistry, physics, and english. It won't be easy, but if it is what you want to do, then it will be enjoyable and rewarding.

Volunteering at your local nature center, zoo, or museum will also help you gain valuable experience working with and studying animals.

6) Any family members, including pets?

I am the youngest of two children. My sister is a writer and editor in New York City. I was married in September, so I gained 2 sisters-in-law and 1 brother-in-law. We have no pets yet, but hope to get a dog.

7) Favorite book(s), Favorite food(s), Any hobbies?

My hobbies include bird watching (duh!), photography, movies, and building model airplanes. Some of my favorite authors are E. O. Wilson, Anne Rice, Michael Crichton, Jules Verne, Robert Louis Stevenson, and a lot of science fiction wrtiers. I also like "The Far Side", "Bloom County", and "Calvin and Hobbs". My favorite foods would probably be barbequed chicken, as well as pasta and Chinese/Thai food.

8) Other comments?

Whatever you want to do in life, make sure you enjoy it.

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