My work as a graduate student at the K. Lisa Yang Center for Conservation Bioacoustics focuses on songbird competitions, in which wild birds are trapped and sold to sing for human amusement. My proposed research uses bioacoustic and cultural data to investigate how birds win singing competitions based on human and natural definitions of vocal fitness, and integrates that research into a music-based environmental education curriculum. My goal is to investigate how music connects students to nature, to critically evaluate its use as a tool for inspiring conservation through education and outreach.
As a naturalist, artist, and explorer, I record bioacoustic data on field expeditions and use these sounds to create educational tools and outreach materials that inspire conservation. I am the creator and host of the television series Wild Beats on National Geographic Kids and Nat Geo Wild, and a National Geographic Explorer and Educator. I’m also a fellow at the Safina Center and The Explorers Club, and was the first artist in residence at the Bronx Zoo. My online game BeastBox, created with Bird Academy at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, has been distributed to over 3.5 million students worldwide, and my articles and films about science have been published in National Geographic, bioGraphic, Slate.com, Smithsonian, and other mainstream publications and film festivals. I am best known for creating music from my field recordings. Before coming to Cornell, I made my living as a professional science communicator and performer. Examples of my work can be found on benmirin.com.
As a member of the Yang Center, I am eager to learn from experts in biology and conservation and apply the rigor and creativity of the scientific method to questions that have shaped my fieldwork, art, and outreach efforts. In the long term, I hope this experience will make me a better science communicator, and that my research can support continued exploration of sound as a tool for understanding and inspiring connections to nature.
Year Hired: 2019
BA, Liberal Arts, Carleton College
Organizations: National Science Foundation (NSF), National Geographic Society, The Explorers Club, The Safina Center, National Association of Science Writers