Hope is the thing with feathers: A soaring journey with Jason Ward

Feb 18, 2020, 7:15am - 9:30am




Birding is a form of wildlife observation in which the observation of birds is a recreational activity. Depending on the level of commitment or intensity of watching birds, you’ll likely receive or give yourself the title of bird watcher or birder. In contrast, ornithology would not be defined as a recreational activity. An ornithologist, unlike a bird-watcher, is a person who engages in the study of birds using scientific methods. Whatever title given, why has this type of engagement with our natural world become so popular over the past decade? What connects us to these beautifully feathered creatures? Well, whether we notice them or not, birds are everywhere!

Birding is one of the most popular recreational activities in the world and it contributes billions of dollars to the U.S. economy (https://www.fws.gov/birds/bird-enthusiasts/bird-watching/valuing-birds.php). Although humans have always observed birds, new technologies have given birding a huge boost in recent years. It appeals to a wide variety of passions such as art, digital photography, citizen science, conservation initiatives and even has a huge presence through social media (i.e. eBird and online birding groups). The list goes on!

In more ways than one, birding is not only about looking at birds. Due to their accessibility and ubiquity, they are a useful tool for subjects like environmental education, wildlife conservation and awareness on environmental issues. Birds easily transmit values on respect to nature and the fragility of ecosystems.

In 2019, one of the major bird-related stories of the year involved a stark warning about a sharp decline in overall bird numbers. Bird enthusiasts were shaken by the publication in September of an article warning that the number of birds in the United States and Canada has fallen by 29 percent since 1970 (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/19/science/bird-populations-america-canada.html).

When it comes to birding, we all have different motivations. It can be an excuse to get outside for a short time or can even be a competitive sport amongst other birding enthusiasts. Birders love to share stories of how their interest took root. It always starts with a single bird or “spark bird” that triggers that lifelong interest to keep looking up. For Jason Ward it started with a peregrine falcon eating a pigeon in South Bronx, New York. This booming recreational activity has expanded conversations not only around the history of birding, but also discussions on human impact, population decline, climate change, conservation efforts, inclusion and even engaging younger audiences.

Join us as Jason Ward takes you on a journey of where his love for birds and wildlife began. He never imagined he would be where he is today, but he always had a passion to learn more about the natural world around him. During this EPN Breakfast program, you’ll learn about his adventures, what he learned, how it changed him personally and professionally as well as tips you can take away to get you started on your own birding voyage.


7:15 a.m. Doors open at Ohio State 4-H Center; Coffee served.

7:40 a.m. Breakfast buffet served.

8:10 a.m. Jeff Sharp, PhD (director, School of Environment and Natural Resources) provides welcome remarks.

8:15 a.m. Introduction of Jason Ward by Anna Rose (Ohio Young Birders Club, Central Ohio Chapter Youth Advisor)

8:20 a.m.  Jason Ward will discuss how he became a birder; what opportunities this popular outdoor activity created for him; his current work as an educator and how it will influence policy, underserved communities and the next generation of birders. 

9:10 a.m. Audience Q & A

9:25 a.m. Closing Comments by Dr. Sharp and invitation to join Jason Ward’s Environmental Film Series program Birds of North America at 7:00pm


Jason Ward bio pic

Jason Ward is a birder, writer and the host of web series ‘Birds of North America’. Born and raised in The Bronx, NYC, his love for wildlife began at a young age as he fell in love with dinosaurs. An infatuation that provided him with an escape from the obstacles growing up in the South Bronx provided. Now, he gets to share his love for modern-day dinosaurs with the public, in his web series; "Birds of North America". Jason’s mission is to change the way the public views wildlife, and to blaze a trail for future generations of children growing up in underserved communities.

In addition to Jason’s EPN Breakfast presentation, he is engaging in a variety of outreach and engagement events around central Ohio next week, including birding walks at Blacklick Woods Nature Center (hosted by Friends of Metro Parks) and at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center. 


Feb EPN Jason Ward outreach flyer