I was born in Blanchard Valley Community Hospital in Findlay, Ohio in August 1973. I was fortunate to be raised by parents who taught me a love of the outdoors. I took that to an extreme, and became a “hardcore” birder at the age of seven. I remember the moment well, as I gazed upon a Double-crested Cormorant spreading its wings at Van Buren Lake in the early morning sunlight. From that moment on I was hooked.

We moved to Columbus when I was twelve. I entered the Ohio State University as a Zoology major in spring quarter 1994. I took most of the following springs off from school so I wouldn’t miss spring migration. I worked the whole time I was in school as the manager of the Wild Birds Unlimited store on Riverside Drive near Dublin, Ohio. I was on the board of Columbus Audubon and acted as their Field Trip Chair, leading many trips myself. I was well-known and active in the Ohio birding community. My last year at Ohio State was filled with graduate-level Zoology courses and independent study. I spent two summers studying birds and tropical ecology in Costa Rica. I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in 1998.

I decided to forego graduate school when I was offered the opportunity to develop an avian program at a research station in Belize. I lived there from 1998 to 2000.

I returned to Ohio in summer of 2000 when I was offered an opportunity to join a Ph.D. program at University of Missouri-St. Louis beginning in January 2001, studying avian genetics. I worked in the lab at that university from January to March 2001, and ultimately returned to Ohio. I managed the Wild Birds Unlimited store full time until I moved to California in summer 2003. During this period, I operated a birding tour company with Lee Jones. The company didn’t survive the drop in tourism after September 11, but I did lead a handful of tours to places such as Belize and Brazil.