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Meet the Birder: Sheridan Alford

SEPTEMBER 23, 2021

Artist Profile: Greg Kozatec

JUNE 7, 2021

Meet the Birder: Ryan Moritz

JUNE 25, 2021

Meet the Birder: Sheridan Alford

SEPTEMBER 23, 2021

Sheridan Alford is an environmental educator with a recently completed Masters of Natural Resources in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management from the University of Georgia. Her fieldwork has taken her across the American South, including research into African American interest in birdwatching as an outdoor recreational activity. She helped organize the online movement Black Birders Week, now in its second year, with the aim of increasing the visibility and representation of Black birders in the field and to elevate and support diversity in the birding community at large.

How did you get into birding?

I’ve always had a general fascination with birds and wanted to answer questions like “How do they fly?” and “What are their feathers made of?” After getting into the University of Georgia and studying wildlife science at Warnell [the university’s school of forestry and natural resources], I had the opportunity to pick a focus course and naturally I chose ornithology. After gaining a good level of background knowledge I went on my first bird walk in 2018 and found out that I adored observing bird behavior—but also sparking a birding interest in others!

Can you tell us about how Black Birders Week started?

Black Birders Week was orchestrated by a group of young Black professionals who could sympathize with what happened to Black birder Christian Cooper in Central Park. While sharing our own stories of discrimination within our respective fields, we decided an event should take place that truly showcased the greatness that Black people have provided to the birding world. It was a week of activities that highlighted the authenticity of Black experiences in nature, and necessity for diversity in STEM [fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics].

What do you love most about your birding community? What would you like to see change, either in your own community or other aspect of birding?

I love the ability to discuss the wonders of birds with people of all ages, races, and creeds. Birds are an amazing way to bond with strangers and get others stoked about the outdoors, even if they don’t have an initial interest in wildlife. I would like to see more opportunities for birding clubs and minorities to interact with one another, whether in schools or community entities, like libraries and camps.

You lead a lot of bird walks for kids and youth. How do you think younger generations connect with nature and each other?

One thing I love about youth walks is the sheer fascination with EVERYTHING. They are just learning about the world around them, and I think it’s important to incorporate nature into that exploration. The outdoors can not only help children learn about themselves but also facilitate healthy coping mechanisms and an understanding of behavior and interactions as they are navigating their own ever-changing developments. 

What's next for you and birds?

My future hopes for birding and me involve reaching out to schools and community programs to provide structured learning through bird exploration. I would love to continue sharing the knowledge of the outdoors with youth and families so that they may continue to carry and teach future generations. 

How did you get into birding?

I’ve always had a general fascination with birds and wanted to answer questions like “How do they fly?” and “What are their feathers made of?” After getting into the University of Georgia and studying wildlife science at Warnell [the university’s school of forestry and natural resources], I had the opportunity to pick a focus course and naturally I chose ornithology. After gaining a good level of background knowledge I went on my first bird walk in 2018 and found out that I adored observing bird behavior—but also sparking a birding interest in others!

Can you tell us about how Black Birders Week started?

Black Birders Week was orchestrated by a group of young Black professionals who could sympathize with what happened to Black birder Christian Cooper in Central Park. While sharing our own stories of discrimination within our respective fields, we decided an event should take place that truly showcased the greatness that Black people have provided to the birding world. It was a week of activities that highlighted the authenticity of Black experiences in nature, and necessity for diversity in STEM [fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics].

What do you love most about your birding community? What would you like to see change, either in your own community or other aspect of birding?

I love the ability to discuss the wonders of birds with people of all ages, races, and creeds. Birds are an amazing way to bond with strangers and get others stoked about the outdoors, even if they don’t have an initial interest in wildlife. I would like to see more opportunities for birding clubs and minorities to interact with one another, whether in schools or community entities, like libraries and camps.

You lead a lot of bird walks for kids and youth. How do you think younger generations connect with nature and each other?

One thing I love about youth walks is the sheer fascination with EVERYTHING. They are just learning about the world around them, and I think it’s important to incorporate nature into that exploration. The outdoors can not only help children learn about themselves but also facilitate healthy coping mechanisms and an understanding of behavior and interactions as they are navigating their own ever-changing developments. 

What's next for you and birds?

My future hopes for birding and me involve reaching out to schools and community programs to provide structured learning through bird exploration. I would love to continue sharing the knowledge of the outdoors with youth and families so that they may continue to carry and teach future generations. 

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