By Brooke Schultz
A passion for science and a love of words has led one Washington College student to a career that entwines the two.
Mike Hudson, senior biology major and English minor, has accepted a co-editing position at North American Birds, a journal that has always “aimed to combine field observations with scholarly, formal science” and to “describe change in population status and distribution of birds,” he said.
“I’m really excited about it; it was such a perfect thing for me to do, starting to get into the professional world of birds,” he said. “It combined a lot of my interests—birds, writing, conservation and populations.”
Hudson said this position has split duties and that the journal is comprised of a few parts. There are essays on bird populations, scholarly research articles, and reports written by other regional editors which compile important trends of each season. Hudson is responsible for about 15 reports, and will rotate between writing regional articles and essays.
As the journal covers North America—from Alaska to the Caribbean—and Central America, the staff lives across the country. Hudson lives in Baltimore, whereas other editors live as far as Minnesota and Colorado.
The journal is part of the American Bird Banding Association and he said that North American Birds is the “field journal wing of it.”
When Hudson first came to WC, he had various ideas of what he wanted to do—pre-vet, pre-med—but he always had an interest in animals, specifically birds.
Birds, he said, are “one of the most ubiquitous animals, really familiar and known by people, but there are a lot of things that we don’t know about them and are really unusual and unfamiliar.”
That interest developed in several internships. The first summer at WC, he interned with the tri-state bird rescue, handling veterinary and animal care tasks. His second summer, he conducted field research with Dr. Jennie Carr, assistant professor of biology, through the Toll Fellows program.
While at WC, Hudson also became involved with the Bird Banding Station at Chino Farms. Bird banding is one of the ways to look at long term population studies. The station, located just 10 minutes from campus, runs “miss nets”—where birds are safely caught. Professionals, who are trained not to hurt the birds, collect the birds from the nets and give them metal bands. This enables scientists to track them, gauge their health, and aids with data recording, Hudson said. Later down the line, if someone else catches that bird, they can see all the research that has already been conducted on that bird.
“People always come out to the banding station and say, ‘Oh yeah, that’s really cool,’” he said.
As an important part of the research is communicating it to others, his English minor complements his interests in science.
Hudson said that he likes understanding literature and communication. The parts of English that have always interested him are nonfiction and argument, and, especially, how to use language to convey ideas, he said.
“A lot of what I do with the journal [is] technical stuff,” he said. He referenced a story about great storms from the Great Lakes and how they influence migration. His job is to make sure it communicates; “How to show other people that something important or significant is happening.”
This position is ultimately the direction he wants to move in, he said, and the start of a career for research about birds.
“It was such a wonderful and unexpected opportunity for someone so ‘new’ and young,” he said.
Jack Despeaux, student life editor, contributed to reporting.