Students Reflect on the 46th WFO Conference

Female Dusky Grouse. Photo: Max Breshears.

A number of young birders attended the conference held in July 2023 at Copper Mountain Resort in Colorado. Among the conference activities provided for young birders, they camped and explored the area on field trips, and also attended the conference sessions. Max Breshears and Lara Tseng write about their experience. Max shares his photographs.

Max Breshears

I had the joy of receiving one of this year’s scholarships to attend the conference. It was one of the highlights of my summer and my year. I met so many awesome people and other young birders. I also finally saw a Dusky Grouse, which had been a nemesis bird for me for almost four years! It really meant a lot for me to attend, and I appreciate the amazing opportunity.

Mountain Chickadee. Photo: Max Breshears.


Lara Tseng

The conference presented a wonderful opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones through our shared love of birds. It has been an amazing space to learn about birds, through identification out in the field as well as through the science sessions presenting new findings in field ornithology.

I particularly enjoyed the science sessions, as they covered a wide range of topics ranging from breeding biology to phenology to descriptive natural history, all with the shared base of field methodologies. It is always exciting to see what new questions and knowledge gaps are being addressed. Additionally, the various types of research shared in science sessions often show us how a key topic or group of birds can be studied from many different angles to provide a more holistic understanding of a bird’s life history.

My interests currently rest in evolutionary-type questions, particularly topics such as delineating species boundaries and using phylogenetics to understand large-scale taxonomic relations. Various talks, including the presentations about Northern Flicker hybrid zones response to urbanization and Flammulated Owl gene flow, gave me fresh ideas for what research I might be interested in pursuing after college and with what taxa I could achieve that with. And as a collective, all of the presentations helped me better understand what the scope and size of a project might be in various stages of pursuing higher education and a career.

Speaking more broadly, I enjoyed the balance of field trips, presentations, science sessions, and socials. I was able not only to appreciate the birds of Colorado, but also to hear about new research and meet many inspiring folks. I am grateful for the scholarships and other opportunities WFO has offered to students interested in pursuing ornithology, and I look forward attending many more conferences to come!

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