Introducing the American Robin Expert
the Robin Expert, Laura Erickson
1) Any childhood memory that was important in guiding
you into your occupation?; how did you become interested in this Field?
I was very little, if I was noisy in the morning when my mother was
trying to sleep, she'd make me come in her bed. I was never sleepy in
the morning, so I decided to start reading the encyclopedias on her
bed headboard bookcase. I started with A and read all the way through
that one. Then I started the B one, and read all the way through BIRD.
That article was so fascinating that after that, I just read about birds
over and over and over, until I had the whole long article about birds
I lived in Chicago, and didn't know how to learn about birds other than
that enclyclopedia article, but I loved listening to House Sparrows
cheeping at dusk, and robins and cardinals singing early in the morning.
I spent a lot of time whistling to cardinals and getting them to whistle
2) Any person, role model or leading authority that greatly influenced
you? (a parent, 6th grade teacher, scientist etc...)
My fifth grade teacher was very understanding about how I cared
about animals but still wanted to learn all about them. When our class
dissected worms, I had trouble choosing an earthworm to dissect, because
I identified with them. He told me he would find me a worm that was
already dead. Unfortunately, none of my teachers was a bird watcher
or helped me learn more about them. But I'm proud that I figured out
how on my own.
3) Your background:(job title, profession, education/training etc...)
I started out as a teacher, with a degree in elementary education
and two years of graduate courses in environmental education, taking
lots of zoology classes. When I was teaching junior high school in Madison,
Wisconsin, I started writing articles about birds for the newspaper
there. In Duluth, when I was staying at home while my kids were little,
I started doing a little radio program about birds--soon people were
bringing me hurt birds to take care of, and so I learned how to do it
right and got a license to rehabilitate wildlife. This is how I got
interested in nighthawks, from taking care of them, and soon started
wondering about some things about how their bodies worked, and started
studying about that. I'm sort of working on a Ph.D. studying nighthawk
digestion right now, but haven't been able to devote any time to it
in a while. Now I mainly write about birds for Journey North, and work
on books and magazine and newspaper articles, too.
4) Favorite work story or experience: (One of your most exciting, memorable,
or exhilarating experiences in the Field!)
think winning the National Outdoor Book Award for Sharing the Wonder
of Birds with Kids is what I 'm proudest of
Every year I do surveys for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/National
Biological Survey. I've had a lot of cool experiences--like imitating
a baby raven and getting the parents to fly right down within inches
of me, looking to see where I was hiding the baby. Once I whistled back
to a Pine Grosbeak and it came closer and closer until it lighted right
on my finger! I've had a Golden-crowned and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet land
on me, too.
The first nighthawk I ever took care of was ready to be released in
August, on an evening when lots of nighthawks were migrating. He flew
up in the sky and headed west (to clear Lake Superior) straight into
the setting sun.
But suddenly he turned around and flew right back to me! He circled
over my head two or three times, as if he really wanted to say good-by,
and then left for good.
5) What advice can you provide to a student who might be interested
in working in your occupation some day?
Learn as much about math and science as you can, and when you have
to write a report about anything, try to have fun with it. Explain the
things about the topic that really interest you, and write it in a way
that tries to get your teacher really interested, too.
6) Any family members, including pets?
am a mom with 3 kids--a 17-year old son, 15-year-old daughter, and 13-year-old
son. We have a big dog named Betsy and a little dog named Photon (named
because she's like a tiny particle of light and energy). I also have
a parrot named Pickles and a lovebird named Rosie.
7) Favorite book(s), Favorite food(s), Any hobbies?
I love reading just about any bird book. My favorites are The Audubon
Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds (it has just about EVERYTHING
a person could want to know about birds), The Nights of the Pufflings,
a really neat non-fiction picture story book about some kids in Iceland
who save thousands of baby puffins all on their own every year, and
Kingbird Highway by Kenn Kaufman, about how a teenager spent a year
birdwatching all over North America, seeing 671 species in a single
year. I've been birding for 25 years, and last spring reached my goal
of seeing 600 species in North America. Now my goal is to search for
birds farther away. Next stop: Costa Rica!!
My favorite foods are pizza and ice cream. I like writing haikus and
watching all kinds of movies.
Journey North Science Writer
here to learn more about Laura, the wonderful books she's written,
and much more information "For the Birds".