Lee Ann van Leer

Project Assistant


Online Events • Bird Identification Techniques for Beginners • Tech Support

One of the roles of Bird Academy is to educate lifelong learners about birds and biology via online courses and online events. I develop content for many of the courses which can be anything from choosing photos for bird ID quizzes, to developing quiz questions, or suggesting topics to be covered. Since I love taking bird and wildlife courses myself, I am motivated to help make practice tools that my fellow bird lovers will find both interesting and enjoyable. My goal is to develop enough practice identification images for a learner to develop a mental search image for each species that will translate into visual recognition when seeing birds in the field.

I act as a liaison between online learners and Bird Academy by providing learner support. This includes answering a wide variety of questions that come in via email, phone, or snail mail about our courses.

I hail from a long line of bird and animal lovers. Before I could walk, my brothers were putting salamanders and snakes in my lap, indoctrinating me into the world of wild critters. As a toddler, I helped my mother hand-feed bugs to birds and other critters she was rehabbing. This is where my strong bond with wildlife began. My first magazine subscription was Ranger Rick. I was inspired by that raccoon and his activist friends who were having zany wildlife adventures while teaching important conservation lessons. Conservationist Jim Fowler of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom television show was my childhood hero and instilled in me a love for all African wildlife. Have you ever watched a hornbill feeding his mate who is sealed into a tree nest cavity for months? The female and offspring are totally dependent on the male during this period.

My fascination with bird behavior grew and as a kid I attended Monday Night Seminars at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Little did I know I would grow up to work there. Due to the wonder of the Internet, people around the world can now gain inspiration and knowledge from these same seminars by watching them live or recorded online.

Studying environmental politics, I realized how much impact laws, politicians, and governing bodies have on the fate of wildlife and our environment. Thus for decades, on my personal time, I’ve been a grassroots organizer for environmentally friendly candidates for Congress, governorships, and the presidency.

Early in my career I taught zoology at a nature center but also made a living as a photographer and an award-winning telecommunications tech support representative. Eventually, my love for birds led me back to Ithaca and the Cornell Lab. It is exciting to be at the mecca of the ornithology world and helping fellow bird lovers and future ornithologists obtain the knowledge they need for their careers or personal enjoyment. It is a great joy to work at the Cornell Lab and be surrounded by such talented and committed coworkers who dedicate their time to education, biodiversity, and conservation.

Need more information about our online courses and events? Email or call us here. I’m happy to walk people through enrolling, signing in, navigating, and content for our courses.


B.S., Zoology, North Carolina State University
Coursework and independent research on animal behavior, Cornell University

Courses I’ve Coauthored

Duck and Waterfowl Identification
Warbler Identification Course

Contributed to Course Content Development:
Comprehensive Bird Biology
Feeder Bird Identification and Behavior
How to Identify Bird Songs
Spring Field Ornithology
Hawk and Raptor Identification

Beyond the Lab

Recreational birding, competitive eBirding, and leading bird walks use up a lot of my outside time. I also organize various clubs from dachshund meetups to audio-video technology groups. I enjoy ballroom dancing, learning bass guitar, and painting. With so many interesting things to do and try, as well as 9,000 more species of birds to find, I’ve never experienced boredom.

Lee Ann van Leer
Center Engagement in Science and Nature
Projects Bird Academy
Email lav24@cornell.edu
Website Bird Academy

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Golden-cheeked Warbler by Bryan Calk/Macaulay Library