Meet the 2004-05 Search Team
Sara Barker is the project coordinator for the ivory-billed woodpecker search, and is a member of the search team. A research biologist in conservation science at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology since 1997, she coordinates monitoring and research protocols for threatened and declining species. Before joining the Lab of Ornithology staff, she worked on recovery efforts for endangered birds on Hawaiian volcanoes and conducted studies of rails on a tidal river in Maryland. In the spring of 2004, she was involved with the initial search effort for the ivory-bill throughout the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge. Sara is a long-time birder, active naturalist, outdoor enthusiast, and head coach of a junior alpine ski program. (B.A. in biology, Colby College; School for Field Studies program, Kenya)
"I believe the ivory-billed woodpecker is a symbol of hope for many people, both young and old alike. Our passion for this magical creature drives the search effort, land preservation, and the development of key partnerships towards the ultimate goal of habitat conservation."
Timothy R. Barksdale provided video documentation of the search. A Cornell Lab of Ornithology research associate, he is president and principal cameraman of Birdman Productions. He has filmed more than 1,100 species, including 660 of North America's resident birds, and served as principal cameraman for Cornell Lab of Ornithology expeditions in Hawaii, Montana, Florida, Alaska and Cuba. His images have appeared on ABC, CBS, CNN, Animal Planet and elsewhere. Before becoming a cameraman, Barksdale was a research associate biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (B.S. in wildlife ecology and conservation, Northwest Missouri State University)
"The rediscovery of the ivory-bill can be the start of the recognition of the importance of wooded bottomland habitat being more than just a source for pulp and boards. These habitats are glorious, diverse and prestigious - not dark, dank and fearful."
Russ Charif, the coordinator for the acoustic search effort, is a research biologist in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Bioacoustics Research Program (BRP). He has worked on studies of acoustic communication and acoustically based population monitoring in several species of birds, as well as elephants and whales. He has also been involved in the design, testing, and documentation of specialized software developed at BRP for analysis of animal sounds. (A.B., biology, Harvard University, and M.S., neurobiology and behavior, Cornell University.)
"For a generation it looked like we had forever lost one of the most compelling symbols of North American wilderness. Amazingly, we may now have a second chance to save the ivory-bill. The possibility that our children and grandchildren may one day be able to see living ivory-billed woodpeckers in the wild should inspire us to protect the forest habitats on which these magnificent birds depend."
John W. Fitzpatrick, the co-leader of the ivory-bill search effort in Arkansas, has been the director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology since 1995. Previously, he was executive director of Florida's Archbold Biological Station and curator of birds at Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History. He has led scientific expeditions to remote areas of South America and published extensively on tropical birds, including seven new bird species he discovered. Fitzpatrick is the author of "Neotropical Birds: Ecology and Conservation," and he has been engaged in applying science to real-world conservation issues throughout his career. (A.B. Harvard University; Ph.D., Princeton University)
"Since the first sighting, this has consumed us. We have dedicated our time and our dreams to protecting and conserving this area. These woods are my church. There is no bird like this in the world."
Tim Gallagher was one of the first three searchers to see and identify an ivory-bill in Arkansas in 2004, and he has returned more than a half dozen times to continue the search. For 15 years he has served as the editor-in-chief of Living Bird, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's award-winning quarterly magazine. A professional wildlife photographer, Gallagher traveled through many of the ivory-bill's former haunts, searching for evidence of the species' continued existence and interviewing people who have had credible sightings. He is the author of the forthcoming book "The Grail Bird: The Search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker" (Houghton Mifflin, July 2005). (B.A. in magazine journalism, California State University; M.A. in English, California State University)
"Just to think that this bird has made it into the 21st century gives me chills. It's like a funeral shroud has been pulled back, giving us a brief glimpse of a living bird, rising Lazarus-like from the grave. This is a bird with natural appeal - one that will capture and fire up the imagination of people throughout America and the world."
Bobby Harrison, an associate professor of art and photography at Oakwood College in Huntsville, Ala., is one of the first three people involved in the search to see and identify an ivory-bill in Arkansas. He has been an avid bird watcher and student of the ivory-billed woodpecker since 1973. Harrison, who is also an award-winning wildlife photographer, began searching for ivory-bills in 1995 in Florida, and he has since searched in Georgia and Louisiana. Since 1985, Harrison has published articles on birds and bird photography in most North American birding magazines and calendars, including Audubon, Living Bird, Birder's World, Wild Bird, Nature's Best, Bird Watcher's Digest, Outdoor Photographer and others. Harrison, a native of Decatur, Ala., resides in Huntsville, Ala. (B.A. in fine arts with an emphasis in photography from Andrews University, Berrien Spring, Mich.; M.S. media technology from Alabama A&M University, Normal, Ala.)
"I have always believed that the ivory-billed woodpecker still lived, and finding one has been a dominant force in my life for more than three decades. Finding an ivory-bill was a 33-year dream come true for me."
Martjan Lammertink, a search team leader, is considered one of the world's experts on large woodpeckers. A researcher at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology since 2004, Lammertinck began to study black woodpeckers as a hobby during high school. In 1991 and 1993 he searched for ivory-billed woodpeckers in eastern Cuba. Other research includes surveys in Mexico's Sierra Madre Occidental for the status of old-growth forests and threatened birds, including the imperial woodpecker. While earning his doctorate, he studied community ecology and logging responses of Indonesian woodpeckers, including the great slaty woodpecker. (M.S. University of Amsterdam; Ph.D., University of Amsterdam)
"The 2004-2005 search for the ivory-billed woodpecker in the Big Woods of Arkansas is an undertaking of epic proportions in terms of the number of people employed, the time spent in the field, the available technology and the dedication of the institutions and agencies involved. This search is a prime example of how to follow up on evidence suggesting the presence of ivory-billed woodpeckers."
David Luneau has, to date during the Arkansas search, captured the best video of what many experts believe to be an ivory-billed woodpecker. A professor of electronics and computers at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Luneau has been in charge of the effort to capture an image of an ivory-bill using remote cameras, and he has served as an advisor in other technical areas. Luneau was a member of the six-person Zeiss Sports Optics search team that spent a month in 2002 looking for ivory-billed woodpeckers in the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area in Louisiana. With support from the Arkansas Audubon Society Trust, he organized and led a less-extended expedition in January of 2003 to look for ivory-bills in Arkansas' White River National Wildlife Refuge. Luneau, a native of Pine Bluff, Ark., resides in Little Rock. (B.S. in electrical engineering, Rice University; M.S. in electrical engineering, Georgia Tech University)
"The lands that hunters and fishermen have conserved have allowed this bird a place to live into the 21st century. Without these people and their interest in saving bottomland forests, I doubt that the bird would have survived."
J. V. Remsen is the McIlhenny Distinguished Prof. of Natural Science at Louisiana State University, and he also serves as curator of birds for the university's Museum of Natural Science. Remsen, who was an organizer of the Zeiss Sports Optics search for the ivory-bill on the Pearl River in Louisiana and who serves as a compiler of all ivory-bill reports in Louisiana, has assisted in planning the search for the ivory-bill in Arkansas. Remsen is also a member of the American Ornithologists' Union Check-list Committee. Remsen, a native of Lakewood, Colo., resides in St. Gabriel, La. (Ph.D. in zoology, University of California; M.A. and B.A. in biological science, Stanford University)
"In the perception of ornithologists, anyone who claims to have seen an ivory-billed woodpecker without providing tangible evidence might as well claim to have seen Elvis, Bigfoot, or a UFO. Soon that will change."
Ron Rohrbaugh, one of the project's co-managers, has worked at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology since 1996, most recently as the director of natural resources and visitor services. Rohrbaugh has been instrumental in developing and implementing the team's search strategy - from writing search and study protocols to interpreting aerial photography and joining the searchers in their day-to-day work. Although not previously involved with ivory-bill searches, Rohrbaugh has spent years studying and searching for rare, difficult-to-find species, such as northern goshawks, short-eared owls, and Henslow's sparrows. Rohrbaugh is taking the lead on developing an exhibit focusing on the ecology and conservation of the ivory-billed woodpecker, to be featured in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Johnson Center for Birds and Biodiversity. A native of central Pennsylvania, Rohrbaugh resides in Van Etten, N.Y. (B.S. and M.S. in wildlife science and ecology from Pennsylvania State University)
"The ivory-billed woodpecker epitomizes the resiliency of our natural world. If recoveries of the bald eagle and peregrine falcon weren't enough, anyone who still doubts the efficacy of three decades of conservation need only look to the ivory-billed woodpecker for inspiration. I hope that the discovery and continued survival of this magnificent bird will finally galvanize Americans to become unified stewards of our world's natural resources."
Ken Rosenberg, a search team leader, is the director of conservation science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. He has spent many years studying foraging specialization in Amazonian rainforest species. A widely known North American birder, Rosenberg serves as co-captain of the Lab's World Series of Birding team, the Sapsuckers. (Ph.D., Louisiana State University)
Scott Simon, who has co-led the ivory-bill search and conservation effort in Arkansas, is the director of The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas. Much of his efforts have been focused on working with Conservancy staff on expediting habitat acquisition and restoration critical to the ivory-bill's continued survival. Simon has worked in ecological fire restoration for a dozen years and teaches courses and workshops in conservation planning, fire ecology, prescribed fire restoration, wetland ecology, wetland restoration and monitoring. From 1990 to 1996, Simon worked as a wetland ecologist for the Illinois Natural History Survey. Simon, a native of Chicago, resides in Little Rock. (B.S. in forestry, Univ. of Wisconsin; M.S. forestry, Univ. of Illinois)
"Finding the ivory-bill in Arkansas has been a validation of decades of great conservation work by hunters, fisherman, state and federal agencies, other conservation organizations and many private landowners who are all committed to conserve the Big Woods ecosystem. This effort is an incredible story of hope for the future."
Gene Sparling, an entrepreneur and naturalist, first spotted the ivory-billed woodpecker in the Cache River NWR that led to the extensive search in Arkansas. Since his initial observation in February 2004, Sparling has been actively involved in the search, serving as the project's co-manager and working in the conservation and land acquisition efforts as well as public and community relations efforts. Sparling, who began exploring the Big Woods in his kayak in 2003, has sought out wild and natural places throughout his life, exploring Arkansas' Ozark and Ouachita mountains, as well the Rocky Mountains, and Mexico's Baja Peninsula. A native of Springfield, Mo., Sparling resides in Hot Springs, Ark.
"There is a place [in the Cache River NWR] where a grove of thousand-year-old trees grows within sight of an interstate highway. I wonder which will endure. Will we invest the same or a greater effort to preserve those trees that we will invest to preserve the highway?"
Elliott Swarthout has served as the supervisor since November 2004 for the field crew at the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge, where he has worked to implement search strategies by deploying full-time and temporary crews, troubleshooting logistical problems, and joining in the search. A longtime birder and conservationist, Swarthout has, for 10 years, researched various birds throughout Arizona, Utah, and Sonora Mexico. From 2000 to 2004, he led fieldwork at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for a study investigating a bacterial infection in house finches in the eastern U.S. (B.A. in wildlife management, Prescott College; M.S. in wildlife and fisheries science, University of Arizona)
"The conservation work of The Nature Conservancy in Arkansas is truly progressive, and the cooperative partnerships they have developed with both public and private landowners are an inspirational model for future conservation work throughout North America. It has been a wonderful learning opportunity to be part of this effort."
Peter Wrege has served as field supervisor for the crew searching the 160,000-acre White River National Wildlife Refuge. Challenges include the logistics of keeping nine to 12 enthusiastic searchers in the field, along with their canoes, johnboats, and equipment. The huge area of interest requires constant integration of the information about habitat quality and woodpecker activity coming in from scouting excursions and the field crew in order to make decisions about where to focus efforts each day. Wrege has been conducting field research on avian behavior for more than 35 years, taking him from Colorado, to Venezuela, Florida, East Africa, Panama and through the local woods and fields of home in Ithaca, New York. (Ph.D. in ecology and animal behavior, Cornell University, B.S. in biology, The Colorado College)
"Playing a part in this epic search has been a thrill and a pleasure, in no small part due to the dedication, enthusiasm, and unstinting cooperation of everyone involved."
Douglas Zollner is director of conservation science for The Nature Conservancy of Arkansas. His work has focused on identifying critical habitat areas necessary for the ivory-bill's continued survival.
Full time crew:
We owe deep thanks to the full time search crew, as this search would not have been possible without their huge talent, effort, and sacrifice
Bioaocustics Research Crew:
Russ Charif, Acoustic Survey Leader
Marc Dantzker, Video production
Part time crew: